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Amy and Isabelle

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,837 Ratings  ·  1,194 Reviews
In her stunning first novel Amy and Isabelle, Elizabeth Strout evokes a teenager's alienation from her distant mother—and a parent's rage at the discovery of her daughter's sexual secrets. In most ways, Isabelle and Amy are like any mother and her 16-year-old daughter, a fierce mix of love and loathing exchanged in their every glance. And eating, sleeping, and working side ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 1st 2000 by Vintage (first published 1998)
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Oct 22, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Read while in Juniper New Brunswick milltown
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Michael Edwards
Yes this reads like a soap opera, how else could you hope to portray life in a small New England mill town? It’s pretty typical, everyone knows everyone’s business, social hierarchies are rigid and all ‘outsiders’ are suspect. Timeline is the 70’s but it could just as easily be taking place today.

In her debut novel Strout shows herself a master at building multi-layered characters, warts and all. Amy is a shy, insecure and socially inept teen - the perfect target for a sexual predator. Enter th

A ruminative story about loneliness, missed opportunities, envy, yearning, and hope set against a small, sad town in New England, Amy and Isabelle focuses on the emotionally complex relationship between an unassuming mother and her reticent teenage daughter. Amy is the obedient, respectful daughter until she becomes involved with her 40-something substitute math teacher. When Isabelle finds out, mother and daughter find their relationship suddenly strained and tense. Seemingly f
Jan 20, 2008 Joanna rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
Heartbreakingly real, beautifully written, the relationships in this book will stay with me. This was an intense read and I am filled with both hope and despair for all of these women. A delicate but steely line separates us from joy and can only occasionally be broken, but with a quick flip of the wrist that same line separates us from fear.

My favorite "aha" moment of the book--Isabelle decides to educate herself and starts reading Hamlet but breaks off at the point when he declares "Frailty,
Feb 06, 2016 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mamalove
Closely observed and nuanced. One of the best books about a mother daughter relationship I've read. Loneliness, isolation, and betrayal are the themes explored. I was often uncomfortable reading parts of this novel because the hunger of these characters to belong makes for heartbreaking moments. I worried for them and then hoped for them.


Jul 17, 2008 Heather rated it it was amazing
This story could have ended halfway through and I would have been content with that. Instead, it went on, way past where I would have expected it to end, and each additional page felt like some secret reward. Strout writes deliberately and without trite language. She's able to masterfully capture the feel of both the single mother and her sordid past as well as the teenage daughter and her sexual awakenings. While predictable in spots (I knew that Isabelle would eventually reveal her past and th ...more
Mar 19, 2013 Dolors rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
Isabelle and Amy, mother and daughter, live in Shirley Falls, a small and quiet little town in Maine where apparently nothing much ever happens. But a lot of its people live in secret turmoil.
Isabelle has had a crush on her married boss for more than 10 years and she feels her life is being wasted away, and secretly, even without daring to articulate the thought, she blames Amy, her 15 years old daughter.
Amy has her own things to deal with. Brought up by her reclusive and unreachable mother, sh
Nov 15, 2007 Miya rated it did not like it
Not sure why I even picked this book up. Boring and predictable. The fact that it was made into an Oprah movie should have been the first clue...
Aug 20, 2009 Sandra rated it it was amazing
I was wowed by Strout's writing in Olive Kitteridge, so decided to read other books she has written. I was not disappointed with Amy and Isabelle, a novel about the strained relationship between Isabelle, a single mother, and her teen-aged daughter Amy. A/I is a coming of age story of young Amy--but also of her mother--as both slowly and painfully find their freedom, independence, and the confidence to move ahead.

The story is not merely a struggle between mother and daughter; it’s an intricate
Feb 08, 2015 orsodimondo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
Si passa da un inverno con cielo plumbeo e pesante che anche a mezzogiorno immerge le camere nel buio, a un'estate in cui la città sembra avvolta da una garza sudicia che ricaccia indietro qualsiasi raggio di sole: è il trionfo dell’assenza di colore.
A meno che non si voglia chiamare colore il marrone del fiume che attraversa la città, con la schiuma giallastra sulle sponde, e il forte odore di zolfo nell’aria.

Su uno sfondo del genere, è difficile che caratteri personalità e co
Sep 14, 2014 Anastasia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-2012
In questo momento sono ancora in adorazione.

L'oggetto di questa mia smodata ammirazione è Elizabeth Strout.
Cominciavo a temere di dover dire addio ai cinque mensili. Di solito fra letture mediamente piacevoli, c'era sempre quella chicca, che in qualche modo incoronava il mese. Ultimamente la media dei miei voti alle lettura s'era notevolmente abbassata. Non capivo se fosse perché io m'ero inacidita, oppure perché davvero era un periodo un po' smorto.
Ora sono propensa ad optare per la seconda.
♪ Kim
Jan 23, 2016 ♪ Kim rated it really liked it
The elements of this story are very commonplace. Isabelle is a single mother raising a teenage daughter in a small New England mill town. Amy is shy and socially awkward, struggling with insecurity and inability to please her mother. Both lead lonely lives, spinning out their days in self-imposed isolation, unable to communicate and connect with each other or with the other townspeople.

It is Strout’s characterizations that give this book impact, her ability to draw the reader in and engage with
Jun 05, 2009 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Another amazing book -- I'd place this right up there with the two Lionel Shriver books I've been raving about.

I read Elizabeth Strout's "Olive Kitteridge" earlier this year, because it was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award -- my fave award next to the Booker. "O.K." was quietly powerful, and I enjoyed it. After I read it, it won the Pulitzer (unrelated events, I'm sure), which was a pleasant surprise, since Pulitzer Prize winners are so hit or miss for me.

Well, "Amy and Isab
Aug 31, 2012 Irene rated it it was amazing
This book was incredibly well written; even the secondary characters were crafted with exquisite care. Having put it down last evening, I can’t stop thinking about this book. Unfortunately, I am at a loss to summarize it. If I were to say that it is the story of Isabelle, a single mother, and her teenaged daughter, Amy, weathering a particularly difficult period in the daughter’s adolescence, I would hardly scratch the surface of this novel. If I described it as a story of the deep well of shame ...more
Shirley Falls, un piccolo paesino del Maine. Un'estate di canicola. Una madre, una figlia e un'intera comunità vista attraverso il filtro delle donne che la animano.

Quand'è che smettiamo di essere figli e diventiamo estranei, persone indipendenti, complete e separate? Conosciamo davvero intimamente le persone che ci hanno donato la vita e ci hanno cresciuto? E quanto veramente loro conoscono noi? Siamo inevitabilmente condannati ad essere degli alieni gli uni per gli altri, nonostante gli stren
beladozer (gretchen)
Oct 07, 2007 beladozer (gretchen) rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: waste-of-time
I made myself finish it just in case it suddenly got better. It didn't.
Jan 06, 2012 Meghan rated it really liked it
I love Elizabeth Strout (ironically enough, a classmate of Ann Patchett's at Iowa Writer's Workshop, and a friend of hers now too) and anything she's done is quality fiction at its finest. I decided to read this because I loved Olive Kitteridge, and I was not let down. Strout's characters are so real I could feel them; they were so honest in their responses that it was sometimes painful. She captures the heartwrenching love and frustration and beauty of a mother daughter relationship; she also c ...more
May 08, 2008 Mayra rated it liked it
This novel is about a mother and daughter with secrets that are to be kept a secret so that nobody thinks bad about them.Amy is a quiet girl and she is very shy.She meets Mr.Robinson and hates him at first but after sometime starts to like him.Their relationship goes even further then a teacher relationship.Amy starts to see her teacher and they start to talk later they do more.Amy is told not to tell anyone and she doesn't. She loves the fact that he loves her and does these things with her and ...more
Nov 18, 2014 Ruthie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
Once again Strout's writing amazes. This is her debut novel and I wish I had read it when it first came out and had experienced the excitement of discovering such a brilliant voice. I will not summarize here, others have done so quite well. This book stands as an example of such superb writing that almost any page could be selected at random and used as a template for a Master Writing class. No wasted words, no cliches, no "telling", all "showing", fully developed characters, perfectly paced sto ...more
Jul 18, 2015 Erika rated it really liked it
This book is a like an astonishingly beautiful piece of instrumental music. It takes a little patience, but once you truly experience it, the rewards are immense.
Amy and Isabelle are a mother and teenaged daughter living in a small town in the early 60s. Isabelle, the mother, is repressed, lonely and disappointed with how her life turned out. Amy on the other hand, is young, beautiful, very sexual and incredibly innocent—the kind of girl that would make any parent worry. The book covers one sum
David Lentz
Jun 21, 2011 David Lentz rated it really liked it
In her first outing, Elizabeth Strout shows great promise as a novelist. Clearly, she has not caught full-stride as a writer in this probably largely autobiographical first work. Her lean, almost minimalist, writing style is deceptive in its depth, at first. The women are all round, full and deep in their portrayal. But the men are all flat, one-dimensional, cardboard fiends. She seemed to be stretching to create a gritty realism in the dialogue, which simply came across in many places as contri ...more
Aug 08, 2013 Roberto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amy e Isabelle sono una figlia e una madre della provincia americana degli anni Sessanta.

Madre e figlia, con un passato poco chiaro che può essere superato solamente con la comprensione ed il dialogo tra le due. Il loro rapporto, descritto come una linea nera che le collega e che si tende e si allenta ma mai si spezza, è esclusivo, profondo, spesso soffocante. Conducono una esistenza piena di segreti e omissioni, attese e rimproveri; alternano momenti di intolleranza e stizza al bisogno visceral
AJ LeBlanc
Dec 17, 2008 AJ LeBlanc rated it really liked it
Shelves: chick-lit
An amazing read! Takes place around the early 1970s, but reads as if it were today. Isabelle is a single mom raising 16 year old Amy in a small, gossipy mill town. The two have a common mother/daughter relationship of sometimes love and sometimes hate. The book starts out looking at the lives of the two, but slowly branches out to include many of the women in the town.

Strout has a gift for developing characters that are so complete you wonder if they actually exist. Everyone has their flaws and
Mar 14, 2016 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the surface, this is the story of an awful summer, so unbearably hot that crops don't grow and the river smells like death. A teenage girl is caught in a compromising situation with her teacher and this drives a wedge between her and her prim, socially awkward single mother. As mother and daughter spend the summer working together in the office of the local mill factory, they find themselves entangled in not only their own quiet drama, but those of the other women who work there.

I picture Sh
Aug 25, 2011 Suzy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Meagan, Elise, Teri, Kathy
I loved this book as if it were a person--still do. It's actually several people, mainly Isabelle and her teenage daughter Amy, but also Amy's friend Stacy and her boyfriend, Amy's substitute teacher Mr. Robertson (whom I don't love), and Isabelle's office mates Fat Bev and Dottie. I read Olive Kitteridge--also by Elizabeth Strout--and didn't much like it (unlike most people) but I had nothing against Strout's writing, so I gave this office book-swap find a try. I found Strout to be amazing when ...more
Mar 20, 2013 Amanda rated it liked it
There was absolutely nothing extraordinary about this book, which is what made it so remarkable. It was a bit slow in the middle, but that was because the significant 'present day' event relating to Amy, the daughter, happens in the middle. The last quarter of the book is really where we get the backstory of Isabelle, the mother. What is remarkable about that event, and really the entire book, is how real and 'drab' the events were. There was no excitement, no real suspense. The book was predict ...more
May 27, 2009 Carol rated it really liked it
I was looking for something a little lighter and more humorous when I checked this book out from the library, and this was neither. This is a very gritty book about a 15-year-old girl who becomes involved with her math teacher. It is also about her very hemmed in, controlling, isolated mother.

Very gritty. Specifically, I could do with FEWER vivid descriptions of really bad smells.

On the other hand, these are some things I always enjoy in a book: I like it when the main characters EVOLVE. I like
Laurie Notaro
Jan 22, 2016 Laurie Notaro rated it liked it
Three and a half stars....Unpredictible--more of a character study than a plot-drive novel, which suited the story well. But I left the book not knowing where Amy and Isabelle stood with each other. I hoped it was on stronger ground. But it was just a hope. Strong writing, simple. My favorite kind. reminiscent of Marilyn Robinson and Kent Haruf. I will read more by this author, definitely.
Jul 04, 2012 Christine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
While out one evening avoiding my teenage daughter's particularly foul mood, this book practically leapt off the shelf and into my hands.

Elizabeth Strout's novel, Amy and Isabelle, is the story of a mother and daughter struggling to redefine their relationship in the wake of teenage Amy's sexual secrets. It captures with stunning accuracy the intricacies and heartaches of the mother/daughter relationship. Even more, it explores the complexity of female relationships in general.

As a mother, as a
Oct 15, 2007 Theresa rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in well-drawn mother/daughter relationship
Shelves: novel
On the whole I really enjoyed this book - a story of a strained mother/daughter relationship with lots of secrets in the single mother's past. Life eventually forces the very controlled and tense mother to give up some of her stuff, due to events in the life of her teenage daughter. The author has a great sense of humor which manifests in the day to day lives of some of the less important characters. The novel is set in a backwater New England mill town.
John Blumenthal
Dec 13, 2014 John Blumenthal rated it liked it
In this novel, author Elizabeth Strout seems more concerned with atmospherics than story. Her characters come to life, but the plot moves at a snail's pace and frankly, isn't all that fascinating. Narrative descriptions of the weather, the roads, trees etc. take up most of the book which could have been condensed into a short story.
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ELIZABETH STROUT is the author of several novels, including: Abide with Me, a national bestseller and BookSense pick, and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. In 2009 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her book Olive Kitteri ...more
More about Elizabeth Strout...

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“But what could you do? Only keep going. People kept going; they had been doing it for thousands of years. You took the kindness offered, letting it seep as far in as it could go, and the remaining dark crevices you carried around with you, knowing that over time they might change into something almost bearable.” 26 likes
“The evenings grew longer; kitchen windows stayed open after dinner and peepers could be heard in the marsh. Isabelle, stepping out to sweep her porch steps, felt absolutely certain that some wonderful change was arriving in her life. The strength of this belief was puzzling; what she was feeling, she decided, was really the presence of God.” 6 likes
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