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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • 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.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Traditional Female Characters

classic female story ...no strong female characters. some Christian sub themes. insights into fear, desire and growth.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent

I have just completed an Elizabeth Strout binge. Although at first her style of seemingly unrelated vignettes and lengthy descriptions felt tiresome and heavy, the more i read the more i felt enveloped by the stories and the characters.
This book in particular was interesting from the beginning. Was immediately taken (negatively at first) by both mother & daughter yet was constantly propelled forward to share their lives and their own self discovery.
All Strouts characters, minor or central, are well rounded and clear. Each character brings their own story and relevance to the plot. I particularly love the fact that her main characters, women are all mostly independent, individualistic and deep.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

ordinary people aren't ordinary.

coming of age story, unsentimental yet lovely. i reduced speed to 85 percent. makes you sympathize (love, really) the "uptight spinster" archetype & the "teenagers are awful" trope. a rebuke to the idea that a person has to think intellectual, existential thoughts in order to be deep; to the idea that you aren't of interest or worth unless you're some kind of super sexy, highly important person.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Wow. So many intimate life moments captures beautifully

This books stats slow but man, does it build. What an intricate pattern appears. Such a lovely portrait of how much friendship and kindness are needed in this world. A great read

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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 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • 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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Ruth
  • 04-22-17

overall enjoyable

The struggle of a mum and daughter to accept each other. I empathised for both