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Amy and Isabelle: A novel Paperback – February 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375705198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375705199
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (307 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"It was terribly hot the summer Mr. Robertson left town." For Amy Goodrow and her mother, Isabelle, the heat of that summer is the least of their problems. Other citizens in the New England mill town of Shirley Falls are bothered by the heat and by "other things too: Further up the river crops weren't right--pole beans were small, shriveled on the vine, carrots stopped growing when they were no bigger than the fingers of a child; and two UFOs had apparently been sighted in the north of the state." But Amy and Isabelle have a more private misery: a seemingly unbridgeable chasm has opened between this once-close mother and daughter and nothing will ever be the same again. For Amy has fallen in love with her high-school math teacher, Mr. Robertson, who has gone way beyond the bounds of propriety by encouraging the crush. When Isabelle finds out, she is horrified to realize that her anger at him is dwarfed by her rage at her own daughter for "enjoying the sexual pleasures of a man while she herself had not."

Mother-daughter novels can, by virtue of their subject matter, often seem claustrophobic, a little overwrought; Elizabeth Strout masterfully avoids this problem by placing Amy and Isabelle in the larger context of the community they inhabit. Though her main focus is on the Goodrow women, Strout often detours into the lives and thoughts of her many secondary characters: Isabelle's coworkers Dottie Brown and Fat Bev; Amy's best friend, Stacy Burrows; Stacy's ex-boyfriend, Paul Bellows; and women from Isabelle's church such as Peg Dunlap and Barbara Rawley. She also introduces a chilling frisson of menace with the unsolved abduction of a 12-year-old girl and a mysterious obscene phone-caller. Like the best of Alice Hoffman, Amy and Isabelle offers up a moving yet resolutely unsentimental portrait of people coming to terms with their lives, finding unsuspected nobility in themselves and unexpected kindness in others along the way. Elizabeth Strout has written a gem of a novel. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

YA-Isabelle Goodrow thought her move to the small mill town of Shirley Falls would be temporary-just until she decided in which direction she wanted her life to head. Now her daughter, Amy, has fallen in love with her high school math teacher, and he takes advantage of the teen's infatuation. When the relationship is discovered, Isabelle is furious with her daughter but also a little jealous that Amy has found sexual fulfillment while she has not. As mother and daughter try to rebuild the trust and closeness they once shared, the private secrets of many citizens of Shirley Falls are revealed. YAs will relate to the complexities of mother/daughter relationships and to having a crush on a teacher. This is a beautifully written novel with characters so real that readers will miss them at the book's resolute ending. Their interactions are riveting.
Katherine Fitch, Rachel Carson Middle School, Herndon, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

What characters and story development!
Arson Larsen
Amy is very unrealistic as a teenager in the 90s; I should know since I *am* a teen.
RSO Kent
The book was easy to get into and very hard to put down.
Berine Coleman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

120 of 123 people found the following review helpful By Meredith Branscombe on April 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you're looking for a Movie of the Week book, or a Jerry Springer-type mother-daughter turmoil book, look elsewhere. Although there is a disquieting edge of menace in Amy and Isabelle, including a murder and an unethical teacher, it's not an action story and it's not overwrought or overdone.
This is a story about the secrets we keep from ourselves and others, about the fictions we create and believe -- sincerely or otherwise -- to protect our images and illusions in others' eyes. In quiet, lucid prose, Strout captures the hesitating, awkward moments of friendship, crushes, life at work and at home. The changes undergone by the characters are mostly subtle, but rewarding.
Our book club argued over this book for hours -- but even those who found one of the characters maddening and prim had to admit that the book truly captured the ambivalence of the mother-daughter relationship: those moments when love, embarrassment, fear, anger all exist at once. Ultimately, it's about the freedom and power gained when one finally accepts oneself, one's mistakes and the things we actually did right. Which makes it sound a lot more trite than it is. Read it.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
On the surface, the lives of Isabelle and Amy appear mundane. But the author, Elizabeth Strout, makes us care deeply about this mother and daughter as well as many of the other seemingly uninteresting characters who people this small New England mill town. Until the summer in which this story takes place, Isabelle and Amy exist in a world of their own, not really belonging to any social group within their town. But the same incident that causes a traumatic rift in their relationship, finally enables them to connect with these other individuals as well as to truly understand and accept each other for the first time. Strout's ability to climb into her characters' minds, understanding their longings and fears, is just extraordinary. She treats all her characters (her female characters, anyway) with great compassion and understanding. The character of Fat Bev was a particular standout. Run, don't walk, to buy this book!
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I read at least a book a week and this is one of the best I've read. The atmospheric background of the town and the depth of the characters is reminiscent of Alice Hoffman. The psychology of Isabelle's character was very well done. I found myself disliking her and pitying her at the same time. I kept wondering how the author would take us to the end of this complex story...and she did it with beauty and tenderness and insight. A good read. Enjoy!
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Ratmammy VINE VOICE on May 18, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
AMY AND ISABELLE by Elizabeth Strout
AMY AND ISABELLE is the story of a mother and daughter, their relationship, and the coming to terms with one's past. On the surface, it appears to be a story about Amy, the teenage daughter that is prone to boredom and feels nothing but contempt for her mother. Amy yearns for a closer relationship with her, but it seems that everything her mother does only irritates Amy further.
However, the story is more than just that. The stormy relationship between Isabelle and Amy reveals a typical relationship between mother and teenage daughter, but besides the problem of Amy and the relationship with her mother, the secondary story line belongs to Isabelle, and why she behaves the way she does. What is the secret of her past? It is obvious to the reader that she is hiding a past that she is ashamed of, and it is this reason that Isabelle isolates herself unintentionally from the rest of the world.
Isabelle is a single parent, a hard working executive secretary in a factory mill. She's been at the same job for many years, but despite this fact, Isabelle does not seem to have any friends at work, nor does she have any friends outside of the office. She goes through life as if on automatic, day dreaming about being the wife her boss Avery should have, thinking she "belongs". She feels she's above the social status of her co-workers, and feels that if she tried, the upper class women in this small town, such as Avery's wife Emma would accept her as one of their own. The fantasies that Isabelle has during all hours of the day and night is almost ludicrous, as the reader knows that Isabelle does not seem capable to see life as it really is. She does not seem to have a grasp on reality.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Golin on January 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As many of the earlier reviewers have commented, this is a wonderfully detailed honest portrayal of the tensions and love between an adolescent daughter and a mother. My favorite part, however, were the many minor characters -- who made the community seem all too familiar, and who became interesting in a few very brief scenes. These really show Strout's strength as a writer. In particular, the workplace dialogue among the women that Amy and Isabelle share an office with is truly wonderful -- the constant bickering, shifting alliances, yet underlying friendships -- everyone who has worked in close quarters with others has been there!
This book is very well written -- my only complaints were that the "happy ending" seems a little contrived, as does the parallel between Amy's life and Isabelle's life -- there the realism breaks down. Also, there's a little too much detail about the natural world - sometimes it breaks the (quite compelling) narrative flow.
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