As a teenager, Violet O’Halloran is sent to a Catholic boarding school in Northern Ireland where she meets Indira Sharma, a blind girl from India with an extraordinary story. The beautiful but ultimately catastrophic friendship that forms between the two girls will go on to haunt Violet for years.

A decade later, Violet meets an Irishman, Emmett Fitzroy, at a party in New York City and is swept into an intense romance that brings her back to Ireland. While there, she unearths the stunning answers to mysteries left unresolved when Indira vanished from her life.

Set in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles, Stranger from Across the Sea explores place, displacement, and exile and the ways in which the personal and the political are inseparable. At its heart, this is a story about a passionate friendship between two singular young women, one that transcends the limits of time and distance.


Editor’s Pick, Publisher’s Weekly Booklife

Set amidst “the moody depths of Irish coastal light, the volatility of the wild North Atlantic tides,” this gorgeous, resonant novel of self-discovery and mystery in adolescence and womanhood centers on an unexpected connection and its impact over decades. In 1973, American teen Violet is brought by her mother to war-torn Northern Ireland, and soon, after the death of Violet’s Irish grandmother, the young woman finds herself stuck for the summer in St. Dymphna’s, a convent school empty save for one other young woman: blind Indira, from India, betrothed to a cousin and, like Violet, desperate for connection. The two form a fast bond, sharing their days, their cultures, their loneliness, and—in a series of lyric scenes of exquisite tenderness—their reflection, as Violet describes themselves in a mirror, and Indira explains what she remembers mirrors as being like.

“You are my reflection and I am yours,” Indira tells her, but what takes root in summer doesn’t always flourish in the school year. As other students return, the pair begins to lose each other, until tragedy strikes. Over a decade later, chance again brings Violet, now a New York waitress and sometime college student, to that same stretch of Ireland as a caretaker for upper-class Emmett, a man distinguished by Aran sweaters, complicated feelings for his family, and a connection to the friend who still haunts Violet—and who has become a figure of local legend.

With wisdom and electric scene-craft, McBride (The Land of Women) deftly contrasts the urgent feelings of youth with the pained uncertainties of an adult facing the past and the losses that come with adulthood. The prose is rich but swift, tuned to the heart and the telling detail, exploring coasts, convents, secrets, and the mysteries of the heart with piercing power, all as Violet faces both the past and the “thin curtain between the world of the living and the world of the dead.” Dazzled readers will likely seek out McBride’s earlier books.

Takeaway: Powerhouse novel of Ireland, an intense girls’ friendship, and facing the past.


“I was captivated by this gorgeous and evocative novel. Regina McBride is a master of suspense and this is a deeply satisfying story.”

-Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of The Road from Belhaven and The Boy in the Field

“With the opening of McBride’s transporting novel, we know we are in the hands of a poet and master storyteller. McBride beautifully captures the profound neediness hidden under the tempest of mothers and daughters, the delicate sensuality and haunting power of girls’ friendships, the vulnerability of adolescence, and the wish we all have to be found.”

--Lisa Gornick, author of Ana Turns and The Peacock Feast

"I was completely captivated by Stranger from Across The Sea. Violet is a sensitive guide through the many layers of this story, which is so well written I wasn't in a hurry to uncover the secrets the house holds. Yet the layers of mystery were also compelling and fresh. This is the kind of book you begin again as soon as you finish."

—Alice Elliott Dark, author of Fellowship Point and In the Gloaming

"Stranger from Across the Sea is a tour de force. Captivating and enchanting, the book is a fierce and sensual story of mothers, daughters, friends, and lovers, set amidst generations of Irish struggles. Though the book is set on the rugged coastline of a small seaside village in Ireland, its stories come from as far as New York and India. Stranger from Across the Sea is a magical book. Brava, Regina McBride."

—Patty Dann, author of The Wright Sister and Mermaids

“A beautifully written book, filled with original details of place and time and drama that ring true, portraying all the mystery and complex emotion that come with being both familiar and a stranger. It will catch you up from the first page and hold you to the last.”

—Sheila Kohler, author of Open Secrets and Cracks

“I loved reading Regina McBride’s beautiful new novel, Stranger from Across the Sea. It’s a passionately written, highly lyrical story of the friendship between two girls, both dreamers, left by their too-busy mothers one summer in a remote convent on the lonely coast of Ireland. Although the story moves on in time, that friendship forms the basis for the remainder of the novel—a tapestry of love and sorrows, mysteries and secrets, memories and ghosts, betrayal and forgiveness, otherness and belonging—in the ‘salt and sorrow’ of Ireland. Read it, you’ll love it too.”

—Clarence Major, author of The Glint of Light and Dirty Bird Blues

“In richly nuanced prose, McBride weaves together the tragedy of history and the timeless yearnings of the human heart. Her artistry as a master storyteller has never been on better display. This is a book to read and reread. Its impact will stay with you long after the last page.”

— Peter Quinn, author of Cross Bronx: A Writing Life and Banished Children of Eve