Amy and Isabelle

  • by Elizabeth Strout
  • Narrated by Stephanie Roberts
  • 11 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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What the Critics Say

"A novel of shining integrity and humor, about the bravery and hard choices of what is called ordinary life." (Alice Munro)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.
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- Catherine "Avid reader, picky about narrators."

Offensive, disappointing and poorly written

There are many reasons I didn't like this novel, including both subject matter, story and writing style. Regarding the subject matter, I was offended by the explicit sexual descriptions of a relationship between a teacher and student. Not only do we not need to create more stories around the topic, we also do not need detailed descriptions. Beyond that offensive part of the book the overall story was weak and lacked a compelling theme. Two main stories were explored: the one of Amy and Isabelle and then a side story of people at Isabelle's work that should have just been edited out. Finally, the writing style was poor. In addition to having too much story in there, tidbits of the future beyond the book were given, and in a way that was not interesting as to what might take place in the future, but was just another random piece of information that continue to detract from the book. Skip it.
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- Elizabeth "A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-12-2013
  • Publisher: Random House Audio