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Abide with Me: A Novel Hardcover – March 14, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Strout's satisfying follow-up to her 1999 debut, Amy and Isabel, follows a recent widower from grief through breakdown to recovery in 1959 smalltown Maine. The father of two young girls and the newly appointed minister of the fictional town of West Annett, Tyler Caskey is quietly devastated by wife Lauren's death following a prolonged illness. Tyler's older daughter Katherine is deeply antisocial at school and at home; his adorable younger daughter Jeannie has been sent to live upstate with Tyler's overbearing mother. Talk begins to spread of Katherine's increasing unsoundness and of Tyler's possible affair with his devoted-though-suspicious housekeeper, Connie Hatch. It's spearheaded by the gossipy Ladies' Aide Society, whose members bear down on Tyler like the dark clouds of a gathering storm. Meanwhile, Tyler's grief shades into an angry, cynical depression, leaving him unable to parent his troubled daughter or minister to his congregation, and putting his job and family at risk. Strout's deadpan, melancholy prose powerfully conveys Tyler's sense of internal confinement. The uplifting ending arrives too easily, but on the whole, Strout has crafted a harrowing meditation of exile on Main Street. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

The handsome minister Tyler Caskey, of West Annett, Maine, is beloved by his parishioners because he really does think they're all God's children. But in the bleak autumn of 1959, more than a year after the death of his wife, Tyler is still awash in grief. The man who once held them rapt from the pulpit now appears ridiculous up there—"like a big tractor being driven by a teenage kid, slipping in and out of gear"—and his daughter has started screaming and spitting in kindergarten. How can he lead them if he himself is lost? Just as she did in her first novel, "Amy and Isabelle," Strout has created an absorbing world peopled by characters who argue the merits of canned cranberry sauce and using one's turn signal; meanwhile, dark fears about Freud and Khrushchev run beneath the surface of their lives like water under ice. With superlative skill, Strout challenges us to examine what makes a good story—and what makes a good life.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (March 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400062071
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400062072
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elizabeth Strout is the author of the New York Times bestseller Olive Kitteridge, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the national bestseller Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine and New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 109 people found the following review helpful By G. Bestick VINE VOICE on September 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Novelists, like high divers, should get extra points for degree of difficulty. Elizabeth Strout set her first novel in a dying New England mill town. She took the story of a sullen teenager and her tightly-wound mother and made something special of it. She pulls off another difficult maneuver in Abide with Me, which excavates the emotional lives of a Protestant congregation in rural Maine, a place where people pride themselves on keeping emotions buttoned down and zippered up.

The year is 1959. Tyler Caskey, a minister in West Annett, Maine has recently lost his wife to cancer. He's trying to get past his grief, dress and feed his two little girls, and tend to the needs of his congregation, but his efforts are getting as ragged as the cuffs of his dress shirts. The book starts slowly, and it's hard at first to tell one taciturn member of Tyler's congregation from another. About a third of the way in, a few faces start to separate out from the crowd: the church deacon Charlie Austin, who hates his day-to-day life and escapes it by visiting a naughty lady down in Boston; Tyler's housekeeper Connie Hatch, who has a secret that's growing in her like a tumor; Rhonda Skillings, a school guidance counselor besotted with Freud's swirling sexual underworld.

Tyler keeps turning over memories of his wife Lauren. She taught him about love, but this girl from a well-to-do Boston family wasn't really cut out to be a small-town minister's wife. The congregation, smitten with Tyler, never warmed up to Lauren. As Tyler feels his faith slipping away, his zeal for his calling starts to diminish. The congregation senses his withdrawal, and resents it. His daughter Katherine is acting out all over, and Tyler's not prepared to deal with it.
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108 of 116 people found the following review helpful By RBSProds TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Five Stars!! Spinning off of the theme of life in small town northern New England, Elizabeth Strout conjures up another winner of a novel detailing the inner most feellngs of the human condition and inter-personal relationships, buffeted by duty, change, and tragedy. Much like the preceding novel, "Amy and Isabelle", set in a different fictional New England town, this is MESMERIZING writing.

We already know from the editorial reviews that this novel is heading towards some sort of a surprise near the end, but in getting there Ms Strout's prose makes us want this journey to continue much longer! Considering the prosaic subject matter, the life of small town preacher Tyler Caskey, and his family, friends, parishioners, and gossipy townsfolk, she conjures up one heck of a fictional ride. Tyler, whose center of gravity balances between God's word and layman philosophers. Ms Strout effectively draws us in and keeps us beguiled with her rich cast of characters, her 'attention to detail' (Connie's hair, for instance; the minister's old shirt; or the effects of fall weather) and her elegant, stark prose, peppered with down-home phrases like "skitter-skatter". By the time Connie Hatch steps into the forefront, this novel is riveting in it's intensity and beauty. The church congregation scene is flat out wonderful writing, as are the final scenes between Tyler and George.

I guessed at a different ending, but Ms Strout is firmly in control and takes us where her compass wants us to be and it's a wonderful ending. This is a great fictional study in small town complexities and humanity. And she leaves us wanting more! Highly Recommended. Five Wonderful Stars!!

(Note: I found the Fournier typeface to be very elegant and readable. This review is based on an unabridged digital download, which makes digital disc a great new home storage alternative for novels. Thank you, Random House!)
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Strout's "Abide with Me" is the story of Tyler Caskey, a minister in the small town of West Annett, Maine, in 1959. Tyler had been married to Lauren, a flighty woman from a wealthy family who could not adjust to living on a tight budget and acting the part of a "minister's wife." Lauren bore Tyler two daughters before she died, leaving the widower bewildered and shaken. Tyler's overbearing mother, Margaret, takes in his toddler, Jeannie, while Tyler tries to manage with five-year-old Katherine. He depends on his devoted housekeeper, Connie, to keep things afloat. However, since Lauren's death, Katherine has been nearly mute with grief and she has begun to act out in school. Although Tyler has always been a popular minister whose congregation admires his impassioned sermons, rumors begin to spread that he is not the man they thought he was. Soon, Tyler questions his vocation, and his faith in himself and the townspeople he has served so well starts to crumble.

One of Strout's strengths is her attention to detail. She describes West Annett so vividly that the reader has a perfect mental picture of this place and its inhabitants. Strout depicts the bored housewives who have little to occupy their minds other than shopping, cooking, cleaning, charity work, and gossip. Tyler's job is a difficult one. He has to advise his congregants when they are in trouble, keep the church going on the limited funds that are available, and withstand the barbs of certain outspoken individuals who have their own agendas.

The author's portrait of Tyler is magnificent. He is a gentle and highly intelligent man, whose idol is the great Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer, who was born in 1906, defied the Nazis and gave up his life for his beliefs.
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