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Amy and Isabelle  By  cover art

Amy and Isabelle

By: Elizabeth Strout
Narrated by: Stephanie Roberts
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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"A novel of shining integrity and humor, about the bravery and hard choices of what is called ordinary life." (Alice Munro)

What listeners say about Amy and Isabelle

Average Customer Ratings
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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

19 people found this helpful

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Offensive, disappointing and poorly written

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.

7 people found this helpful

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Real life

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.

7 people found this helpful

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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.

5 people found this helpful

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A story that you will want to listen to in a single audio reading

So many have commented on the story, characters, and the writing, I would like to point out the magnificence of the narrator. She is wonderful, esp. in capturing the voice of Amy--both as the young woman struggling to live in the constricted world of her mother's psychological fears, emotional uncertainties, and economic worries, but also when the very young child breaks out in this teenage girl longing to know physical warmth and realize the possibility of love's intimacy.
The amazing quality to Stephanie Roberts' performance is that she does not get in the way of the story; that is, at least for a woman listening to her, it as as though you are hearing your own internal voice

4 people found this helpful

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  • PB
  • 01-08-14

Good story line but too much detail

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

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.

Would you be willing to try another book from Elizabeth Strout? Why or why not?

No, because she goes on and on and on about things that are insignificant to the story.

What about Stephanie Roberts’s performance did you like?

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.

Could you see Amy and Isabelle being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

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.

4 people found this helpful

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Elizabeth Strout is always a unique read.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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.

What did you like best about this story?

I love the painful believability of the characters.

What three words best describe Stephanie Roberts’s performance?

Patient. Impassioned. Believable.

If you could rename Amy and Isabelle, what would you call it?

The Sins of the Mother

3 people found this helpful

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Another unforgettable lesson in Compassion

Every book I listen to by Elizabeth Strout, reminds me of people I've know and forgotten about, some of whom I judged before I forgot about them. At some point during every book I think of myself in various forms. The insecure me, the child me, or the judged me. I cannot read Ms. Strout without feeling empathy and compassion for the characters who inhabited my life, and for myself. She has a gift.

2 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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Brilliant Intricate Story

4th audible book I have completed of Elizabeth Strout's. Deep beautiful characters - heartwrenching and heartwarming mother daughter journey. A balance of life - dark and light. Excellent narration by Stephanie Roberts. Deep brilliant writing!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nancy Bowring
  • 11-19-14

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.

5 people found this helpful

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  • bookylady
  • 01-08-17

Love & relationships in a small town.Stunning read

Any additional comments?

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • DAVID
  • 05-31-19

Exquisite. Beautiful

The everyday story of growing up in New England in the 70s - but beautifully observed, sensitive, true.
Touching and profound in its realism. Poetic.
Exquisitely read.
A VERY easy listen.....

2 people found this helpful

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  • Luke
  • 09-09-19

Good, but not a page turner

I quite enjoyed this though I was rather glad when it ended. It was well written but I found the rather plodding pace uninspiring and slightly dull in places.
So saying, the story was interesting and inciteful but it just didn't grab me.

1 person found this helpful

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  • M Wadsley
  • 12-17-17

Great listen!

Beautifully written. Real, honest and makes you question your own moral compass. My 2nd E. Strout book and just off to purchase my next!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Cita
  • 01-17-17

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-04-22

Excellent Narration

Another good Elizabeth Strout novel about the lives & feelings of ordinary people in small town New England.

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  • kathy
  • 11-24-21

Brilliant novel.

Loved it so so much. Elizabeth Strout is such an amazing writer. Great understanding of people and so eloquently written

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-16-20

Elizabeth Strout at her best

The detailed attention Strout pays to a short but eventful period in a mother & daughter’s and the people who surround them in the small town they live in mid-century America is exceptional - her pin point accuracy of emotions and actions is astonishing. Highly recommended!

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  • Presto
  • 09-18-20

Great listen

I find this author very thought provoking and this story is no exception. It left me feeling that all reasonable humans find life tough going.

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  • Karina Mereki
  • 10-17-22

A wonderful heartfelt story

This story highlights the trials and tribulations of mother and daughter relationship. The feelings of shame and how we deal with these internally and externally. Elizabeth Strout is a most gifted writer of our times, with her attention to detail and such sensitivity to the human condition makes all her books well worth reading.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-23-21

loved loved loved this book!

so many layers and complex characters to this story. thoroughly enjoyable, and brilliantly narrated. excellent!

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  • Rebecca
  • 10-13-20

Just loved it

An understated and true feeling narrative. Great if your just after a slice of life written and performed well.

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  • Helen Jones
  • 04-28-20

as good as it gets

a brilliant coming of age novel, brimming with insights into human character and motivation. honest, beautiful and unsentimental. read with sensitivity and rare skill.

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  • Ciaran
  • 04-19-20

So Good!

I was really disappointed that the teacher didn't turn out to be the murderer of the young girl. Would have wrapped it up nicely that Isabelle's boss was actually Amy's saviour. But all in all, a beautiful book.

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  • Sophia Cosmas
  • 05-20-19

Exceptional performance by Stephanie Roberts does Strouts novel justice in ways most unexpected.

The first thing I have to say about this audiobook is that it was one of the best, most performances I’ve experienced - and I’ve made my way quite a number. Hats off and a standing ovation to Stephanie Roberts. She really brought Elizabeth Strout’s story to life, in all its wondrous, insightful, sometimes uncomfortable glory.

I binge listened.