Amy & Isabelle
From the Man Booker Prize longlisted author of My Name is Lucy Barton
Isabelle Goodrow has been living in self-imposed exile with her daughter Amy for fifteen years. Shamed by her past and her affair with Amy's father, she has submerged herself in the routine of her dead-end job and her unrequited love for her boss. But when Amy, frustrated by her quiet and unemotional mother, embarks on an illicit affair with her maths teacher, the disgrace intensifies the shame Isabelle feels about her own past.
Throughout one long, sweltering summer, as the events of the small town ebb and flow around them, Amy and Isabelle exist in silent conflict until a final act leads ultimately to the understanding they both crave.
Stories of young women who suffer the sexual advances of an authority figure (in this case, a high school math teacher) seem ubiquitous these days. But in Strout's gently powerful, richly satisfying debut, the damage shows less within the heart of the teenaged girl in question than in the wreckage of the previously tranquil relationship she had enjoyed with her mother. Amy Goodrow, 16, is the shy only child of Isabelle, a single mother. Isabelle's shame over the secret of her daughter's illegitimacy and her hunger for respectability keep her painfully isolated from the community of the New England mill town where she has made her home. Even before Amy's relations with her teacher become known, her beauty and her burgeoning sexuality arouse uncomfortable feelings of competitiveness in Isabelle, as well as dread at the prospect of her daughter's flight from Isabelle's carefully constructed nest. Amy, meanwhile, is in love; Strout lays out her teacher's charms as clearly as his caddishness, and her portrait of a young woman stumbling on the shattering power of lust--her own and others'--balances delicacy with frankness and breathtaking acuity. In the end, it is Isabelle who stays with the reader; devastated by her daughter's betrayal, riven with regrets over a life left largely unlived, she must somehow make amends to herself. This beautifully nuanced novel steers a course somewhere between the whimsy of Alice Hoffman and the compassionate insight of Anne Tyler and Sue Miller, and is sure to delight fans of all three.