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)
Avid reader, picky about narrators.
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.
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
English major. Love to read
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.
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.
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 school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!
There are many reasons I didn't like this novel, including both subject matter, story and writing style. Regarding the subject matter, I was offended by the explicit sexual descriptions of a relationship between a teacher and student. Not only do we not need to create more stories around the topic, we also do not need detailed descriptions. Beyond that offensive part of the book the overall story was weak and lacked a compelling theme. Two main stories were explored: the one of Amy and Isabelle and then a side story of people at Isabelle's work that should have just been edited out. Finally, the writing style was poor. In addition to having too much story in there, tidbits of the future beyond the book were given, and in a way that was not interesting as to what might take place in the future, but was just another random piece of information that continue to detract from the book. Skip it.
"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.
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