Excerpt from Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Amy and Isabelle

by Elizabeth Strout

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout X
Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 1999, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2000, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


But there was one period of time when Amy would do nothing except sit in a chair, and Esther Hatch complained that it gave her the willies, that if Amy couldn't get up and run around like a normal child she wasn't sure she could keep taking her in. This made Isabelle panic. She bought Amy a doll at Woolworth's, a plastic thing with springy, coarse platinum hair. The head fell off right away, but Amy seemed to love it. Not the doll so much as the head of the doll. She carried the head everywhere she went, and colored the plastic lips red. And apparently she stopped confining herself to a chair at Esther Hatch's house, because the woman did not complain to Isabelle again.

But it was clear, then, why Isabelle would sit with the girl each night at their table in the kitchen. "Sing Itty Bitty Spider?" Amy might ask sweetly, squeezing a lima bean between her small fingers. And Isabelle-it was horrible-would say no. She would say no, she was too tired. But Amy was such a sweet little thing-she was so happy to have her mother right there, a mere arm's length across the table. Her legs would swing with happiness, her small wet mouth open in a smile, tiny teeth like white pebbles set in her pink gums.

Isabelle closed her eyes, a familiar ache beginning in the center of her breastbone. But she had sat there, hadn't she? She had done that.
"Please," she said now, opening her eyes. "You may be excused." Amy got up and left the room.

The curtain moved again. This was a good sign, if Isabelle had been able to think about it that way, the evening air moving enough to move the curtain, a breeze strong enough to ripple the curtain lightly, holding itself out from the sill for a moment as though it were the
dress of a pregnant woman, and then, just as quickly, silently falling back in its place, a few of its folds touching the screen. But Isabelle did not think that at least there was a breeze. She thought instead that the curtains needed to be washed, that they had not been washed in quite some time.

Casting her eye about the kitchen, she was glad to see that at least the faucets shone, and the counters did not seem streaky, as they sometimes did, with the dried remains of cleanser. And there was the Belleek china creamer that had belonged to her mother, the delicate, shell-like, shimmering thing. Amy was the one who had brought it down from the cupboard a few months before and suggested they use it each night. "It was your mother's," Amy said, "and you like it so much." Isabelle had said all right. But now, suddenly, it seemed dangerous; a thing so easily to be swept by a sleeve, a bare arm, and smashed to bits on the floor.

Isabelle rose and wrapped the leftover part of her hamburger in wax paper and put it in the refrigerator. She washed the plates, red-stained water from the beets swirling into the white sink. Only when the dishes were done and put away did she wash the Belleek china creamer. She washed it carefully, and dried it carefully, then put it far back in the cupboard, where it couldn't be seen.

She heard Amy come out of her bedroom and move to the top of the stairs. Just as Isabelle was about to say that she didn't want the Belleek creamer used anymore, that it was too special a thing and too apt to get broken, Amy called down the stairs, "Mom, Stacy's pregnant. I just wanted you to know."

Excerpted from Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout. Copyright© 1999 by Elizabeth Strout. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Last Ballad
    by Wiley Cash
    A hundred years ago or so, farming land west of Charlotte, North Carolina was given over to giant ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Graybar Hotel
    by Curtis Dawkins
    We – those of us on the outside – are lucky. So very lucky. We get to experience life &#...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.