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.
"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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Compelling story about relationships
- Nancy Bowring
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.