Amy and Isabelle
By Elizabeth Strout
Completed March 14, 2009
Elizabeth Strout is a master at creating female characters that grow on you as you read the story. This was the case in the brilliant Olive Kitteridge - and the case in my latest read, Amy and Isabelle.
Isabelle Goodrow was a well-meaning but insecure woman who was raising her teenage daughter, Amy. Isabelle felt that she was doing a good job as a mother until she discovered Amy’s affair with her teacher. Isabelle was devastated. She was torn between reporting the teacher and keeping Amy’s secret in a gossip-ruled town in which Isabelle so desperately wanted acceptance. More importantly, Isabelle felt betrayed by her daughter and jealous of her sexual escapades. Amy became a daughter she didn’t know anymore.
Meanwhile, we learn about Amy – a beautiful but shy teenage girl who, like her mother, was unconfident and tried her best to fit in. Amy did not see her mother as an expert on life, mostly because Isabelle was so reserved, and easily fell into the arms of her knowledgeable teacher. Little did Amy know that she was living a life parallel to her mother’s teenage years.
I loved how Isabelle developed from a smug, self-righteous woman to an open-minded, accepting mother and friend. As I first started to read about Isabelle, I kept thinking that she needed to lighten up. However, I realized that her quiet reserve was a front because she was always worried what people thought about her. Amy was another interesting character – Strout offered up pieces about Amy, but I did not feel any resolution to her insecurities.
If you enjoy reading about mother-daughter relationships, then I highly recommend Amy and Isabelle to you. I can’t wait to read Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.