With compassion, humor, and striking insight, Amy and Isabelle explores the secrets of sexuality that jeopardize the love between a mother and her daughter. Amy Goodrow, a shy high school student in a small mill town, falls in love with her math teacher, and together they cross the line between understandable fantasy and disturbing reality. When discovered, this emotional and physical trespass brings disgrace to Amy's mother, Isabelle, and intensifies the shame she feels about her own past. In a fury, she lashes out at her daughter's beauty and then retreats into outraged silence. Amy withdraws, too, and mother and daughter eat, sleep, and even work side by side but remain at a vast, seemingly unbridgeable distance from each other.
This conflict is surrounded by other large and small dramas in the town of Shirley Falls: a teenage pregnancy, a UFO sighting, a missing child, and the trials of Fat Bev, the community's enormous (and enormously funny and compassionate) peacemaker and amateur medical consultant. Keeping Isabelle and Amy as the main focus of her sharp, sympathetic eye, Elizabeth Strout attends to them all. As she does so, she reveals not only her deep affection for her characters, both serious and comic, but her profound wisdom about the human condition in general. She makes us care about these extraordinary ordinary people and makes us hope that they will find a way out of their often self-imposed emotional exile.
©2013 Elizabeth Strout (P)2013 Random House Audio
"A novel of shining integrity and humor, about the bravery and hard choices of what is called ordinary life." (Alice Munro)
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"Honest, tough and absorbing"
This was my first Elizabeth Strout, and I'm looking forward to the next. The writing is precise and lyrical. Precise, in that there isn't a wasted word. Lyrical in that although there are few specific descriptions of places and things, you can "see" the rooms and settings clearly through the characters' dialog. The story is simple and urgently familiar to anyone who ever lived a limited life in a small town. My mental pictures as I listened were very Hopper: this is small town life, red in tooth and claw. It's not an easy listen but a worthwhile one.
I'm picky about narrators, and this one is pretty good. Occasionally a bit actor-ish, but generally authentic and without the overlay of her own opinions that spoils so many otherwise good audiobooks.
Another reviewer called it offensive. Well, a couple of scenes are quite explicit, but that was really necessary to evoke an adolescent girl's ignorance in the context of her first sexual encounter. Really poignant, the way she mistakes rutting passion for romance, and without that nuance the rest of the story wouldn't play.
A dramatic, well paced narrative centered on a hot, oppressive summer in a New England mill town. Excellent narration. This is a character driven story, and I found it quite compelling. Especially loved the "supporting" characters of Fat Bev and Dottie.
"Elizabeth Strout is always a unique read."
I would recommend this title to any current Elizabeth Strout fans. I feel one must either have a) an open mind, or b) an existing appreciation for Strout's heavy exposition.
I love the painful believability of the characters.
Patient. Impassioned. Believable.
The Sins of the Mother
"Good story line but too much detail"
I would not recommend this book to a friend. The mother/daughter relationship storyline appealed to me. However, the author described every little thing in unnecessary detail. For example, if a leaf is green I find it unnecessary to spend five minutes talking about the shade of green. If a character does something gross, a five minute description of just how gross is a turn-off in my opinion. In summary, the book could have held my interest if it the author had not gone on and on and on about things that had no bearing on the storyline. Since that was not the case, I got through only about 3/4 of the audio.
No, because she goes on and on and on about things that are insignificant to the story.
The narrator had a nice, professional, theatrically-trained sounding voice. She did not take deep loud breaths after each sentence like so many audible narrators do. I also appreciate that I did not hear smacking and saliva as I do with many of the narrators. I would love to hear her read a more interesting book.
I could see it being made into a movie,but it would be a very dark, solemn, depressing movie. It definitely would not be a movie I would want to see.
"This book grows on you and stays!"
Elizabeth Strout is a talented writer and brings people into my life whom I would probably never otherwise meet. These are simple, genuinely kind people who, like all of us, are trying to navigate life's difficulties - in this case, a mother and 17 year old daughter who don't really start communicating until they are faced with major obstacles. The characters are beautifully drawn and the changes they come into are authentically depicted. I loved it.
"A word painter"
Yes, I started again from the beginning as soon as I finished. Partly because I had missed some parts when I listened. but also because the characters and the story are multidimensional so you listen differently the second time.
When you get to know Isabelle better.
She makes perfect voices for the characters.
No, it's a very non-extreme book. But it is very well written and never boring. It is thoughtful entertainment.
I give this five starts not because it is such a special book, it's not. But, as another reviewer out it, Strout has an amazing gift of painting beautiful characters out of highly ordinary people.
Beautiful story of mother and daughter and life in a small town. I couldn't stop listening to it.
"Such a honestly written book"
This book is written in such an honest & beautiful way. The characters seem real & you become more invested in their lives as the story goes on. You feel for Isabelle as she decides to be honest with people about her life & as she discovers the meaning of friendship. You feel for Amy in a totally different way, as she discovers her sexuality & all the mistakes she makes. I couldn't stop listening, but didn't want the story to end.
that would be a spoiler
Isabelle, I'd like to sit down and talk to her. Or maybe Fat Bev. I liked all the women characters in this book.
Elizabeth Strout's characters are so real. Complicated people who do dumb stuff, make mistakes. But they are also capable of love, and those wonderful moments of real human love and insight. I find it easy to identify with all of them.
"A wonderful mother/daughter story."
Reminded my of another mother/daughter story "Peyton Place." Highly recommend reading it. And Ms. Strout's story telling is superb!
"Compelling story about relationships"
This is one of the best books I’ve read/listened to for a very long time. Elizabeth Strout has an innate understanding of human nature and how people tick. It is basically about relationships and how our perception about the way people think about us affects our ability to get on with them.
The two main relationships are between the daughter and mother, Amy and Isabelle. Their mutual lack of understanding about each other’s needs is tragic and destructive. It is only when Isabelle faces the truth about herself that she is able to appreciate her daughter’s feelings and recognise her own deep love for her.
The first class narrator breathes life into each intricately drawn character (and there are many varied personalities in the book) and makes every one utterly convincing and real.
"Touching and thought provoking!"
Totally loved every aspect of this wonderful story. it is beautifully read and the characters come to life.. Wonderful exploration of personal relationships, developing sexuality, hopes and disappointments.
"Love & relationships in a small town.Stunning read"
I am a recent convert to Elizabeth Strout and I have been enthusing with friends about two of her other novels in the past few months. Amy & Isabelle is another tour de force of spare, thoughtful, compassionate writing, full of wisdom, humour and insight into the lives of ordinary,everyday folk/families. The story arcs, on the surface, seem in the first few chapters to be simple and straightforward. But the quality of the prose, the imagery and the witty, true-to-life dialogue draws you in and grabs you by the throat and heart and you realise that the plot is far more complex than it first appears. I totally believed in the (mostly) female characters of this story but the male characters were well-drawn too, particularly the creepy, sexual predator Mr. Robertson.
The main protagonists are the teenage Amy, who is on the threshold of womanhood, and Isabelle her single, uptight mother. When Amy becomes embroiled (and subsequently exposed) in an inappropriate relationship with a teacher she and her mother become estranged. Their relationship seems irretrievable but when subsequent events force Isabelle to confess her own 'shameful' secrets, the pair are able to try to reconcile their differences and move on.
Alongside all of this are the intertwined lives of Isabelle's workmates and her boss Avery whom she secretly yearns for. This group of females contains some beautifully constructed characters (particularly the comic, caring, mother hen Fat Bev) and the plot deftly weaves their lives, relationships, faults, crises and disappointments together to a point where Strout demonstrates the absolute importance of friendship and selfless love.
It is a classic tale of small-town life where ordinary people can be living extraordinary lives right under the noses of those who think they know them best! If you like the kind of books written by Anne Tyler and Carol Shields, try this excellent novel.
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