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Amy and Isabelle

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  7,486 ratings  ·  1,007 reviews
National Bestseller

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, sleepi...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 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Joanna
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,...more
Heather
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
Cristina
Le foglie del ginko biloba cominciarono a cadere alla fine di quella calda estate...

Quando nacque il mio primo figlio, mia madre mi ragalò Un genitore quasi perfetto di Bettelheim. Il titolo è un'aspettativa, o una meta da raggiungere, quello che ci si aspetta da te...pensai?.
No il titolo è semplicemente una cattiva traduzione, Il titolo originale era molto più vicino a "un genitore sufficientemente buono", che ricorda un concetto caro al dott Winnicot. E' molto diverso.
Liberando la mente dal r...more
Anastasia
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....more
Miya
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...
Sandra
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...more
Dolors
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...more
Meghan
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
Mayra
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
beladozer
Oct 07, 2007 beladozer rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: waste-of-time
I made myself finish it just in case it suddenly got better. It didn't.
David Lentz
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
orsodimondo
UN GUSTO SUPERIORE
Si passa da un inverno con cielo plumbeo e pesante che anche a mezzogiorno lascia camere buie, all’estate in cui la città sembra avvolta da 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 comportamenti u...more
Amanda
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
AJ LeBlanc
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...more
Lauren
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...more
Carol
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...more
Ruthie
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
Irene
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
Christine
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...more
Theresa
Oct 15, 2007 Theresa rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
Ashley D
I was very excited to read this novel by Elizabeth Strout, as I felt that "Olive Kittridge" was a truly fantastic novel. However, I thought this book was decent but lacked excitement. Strout is a superstar in penning beautiful novels and she has a knack for sentence construction that makes you sit back and go, "wow. that was stunning". However, what has worked for her in past novels (simple, self-victimized characters) failed her this time.

In "Olive Kittridge" the readers felt something for Oli...more
Suzy
Aug 25, 2011 Suzy rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Nancy
This turned out to be a rather lovely read. It started I thought as a simple little story of relationships between Mother and Daughter;but soon revealed itself to be a complex relationship that wasn't to be fully understood till the end though much surmised by the reader. But the daughter lost in the turmoil of growing up and maternal moods never really understood until the end. Around the central characters there were several subplots of women struggling with a myriad of lives issues. I loved h...more
Caroline Herbert
This book is a masterful study of the intense, fraught relationship between a single mother and her 15 year old daughter. On one level they're going through the usual struggles of the teenage years, with Amy (the daughter) moving away from her mother to develop her own identity and independence. Having given up everything for her daughter, Isabelle is having a lot of trouble with that transition--especially the realization that Amy is discovering her sexuality. I don't want to say much about the...more
Nitya
I love Elizabeth Strout's writing. Wanted to read this since reading Olive Kitteredge. Amy and Isabelle did not disappoint, though I see Strout's growth as a writer in that I think Olive Kitteredge was even better.
Amy and Isabelle tells the story of a single mom (Isabelle) and her teenage daughter (Amy) in a small midwestern town in the late 60's. Isabelle works as a secretary at a local mill, goes to church regularly, but has no social life and no friends. Amy, like her mother, is also social...more
Jessica
I liked this book right up to the ending.

Both Isabelle and Amy were well developed characters, and I particularly liked that Isabelle was somewhat unappealing. Much like Olive Kittridge, Strout makes her main character flawed in a way that I found disconcerting, but mostly because I recognized things Isabelle did in myself and my acquaintences which were less than flattering.

Amy was very convincingly written to me. I thought Strout presented a very believable teenaged girl who was often in the b...more
Carla Lowe Baku
Feb 27, 2011 Carla Lowe Baku rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Readers of Anne Tyler or any other strongly character-driven fiction
Recommended to Carla by: Megan Staffel (MFA advisor)
I just finished Amy and Isabelle and am in a state of writerly awe; it is now on the list of books about which I can say "I wish I had written that book!"

Strout's deft handling of the omniscient point of view is remarkable and fluid. It's rare to find a story that dares to dip into the heads of multiple characters in a single scene, primarily because it's hard to do WELL. The author does so in this novel subtly and with a light touch. Her handling of time passing is also wonderful--reminiscent t...more
Sharon
I really like Elizabeth Strout as an author. This book is really a 3 1/2 star. This is her first novel and the copy right date is 1998. So, not as good as her later books: Olive Kitteridge or Burgess Boys, but I am reserving from the library another book, "Abide with Me" also by Ms. Strout...and I am sure it will be another really good book.

The main characters are: Amy, the teenage daughter, and Isabelle, the mother, and the story takes place in the small Maine town of Shirley Falls. Basically...more
Roberto
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...more
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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...
Olive Kitteridge The Burgess Boys Abide with Me The Best American Short Stories 2013 The Fort

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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.” 20 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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