Amy and Isabelle

It was terribly hot that summer Mr. Robertson left town, and for a long while the river seemed dead. Just a dead brown snake of a thing lying flat through the center of town, dirty yellow foam collecting at its edge. Strangers driving by on the turnpike rolled up their windows at the gagging, sulfurous smell and wondered how anyone could live with that kind of stench coming from the river and the mill. But the people who lived in Shirley Falls were used to it, and even in the awful heat it was only noticeable when you first woke up; no, they didn't particularly mind the smell. 

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Orange Prize Nominee for Fiction Shortlist
Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction (LA Times)
PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist

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 by side in the gossip-ridden mill town of Shirley Falls doesn't help matters. But when Amy is discovered behind the steamed-up windows of a car with her math teacher, the vast and icy distance between mother and daughter becomes unbridgeable.

As news of the scandal reaches every ear, it is Isabelle who suffers from the harsh judgment of Shirley Falls, intensifying her shame about her own secret past. And as Amy seeks comfort elsewhere, she discovers the fragility of human happiness through other dramas, from the horror of a missing child to the trials of Fat Bev, the community peacemaker. Witty and often profound, Amy and Isabelle confirmed Elizabeth Strout as a powerful new talent.

National Bestseller

Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.

One of those rare, invigorating books that take an apparently familiar world and peer into it with ruthless intimacy, revealing a strange and startling place.
The New York Times Book Review
Stunning....Every once in a while, a novel comes along that plunges deep into your psyche, leaving you breathless....This year that novel is Amy and Isabelle.
San Francisco Chronicle
A novel of shining integrity and humor, about the bravery and hard choices of what is called ordinary life.
Alice Munro
Excellent....Strout’s collective portrait...remains unflaggingly engaging....[W]hat a pleasure to gain entry into the world of this book.
The New Yorker
Strout’s insights into the complex psychology bewteen [mother and daughter] result in a poignant tale about two coming of age.
Amy and Isabelle is an impressive debut....with an expansiveness and inventiveness that is the mark of a true storyteller.
The Philadelphia Inquirer


A Reader's Guide to Amy & Isabelle

Set against the vividly evoked background of Shirley Falls, and the large and small dramas that unfold during the year … Amy & Isabelle portrays the coming of age not only of a teenage girl experiencing love and betrayal for the first time, but of a woman who, in pursuit of a respectable life, has denied her deepest emotions and longings.
— About this Book

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"A Reader's Guide" is included in the paperback edition.