Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A mother and daughter navigate their strained relationship in a small New England town.


"Amy and Isabelle" is a compelling novel written by Elizabeth Strout that delves into the complex dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship. Set in a small New England town during the 1970s, the story unravels the challenges faced by Isabelle Goodrow, a single mother, and her teenage daughter, Amy. Through vivid storytelling, the author explores themes of love, loss, and the intricacies of human connection.

Brief Synopsis

The setting of "Amy and Isabelle" is the fictional town of Shirley Falls, Massachusetts, where Isabelle Goodrow works as a single mother raising her daughter, Amy. The narrative takes place during a sweltering summer, a time when the relationship between the two becomes strained due to a series of events. As secrets are revealed and emotions come to the surface, the story sheds light on the complexities of family life in a small, close-knit community.

Main Characters

The novel features several key characters whose lives intertwine to shape the storyline:

Isabelle GoodrowA single mother working at the local mill, struggling with her past and the challenges of raising a teenage daughter.
Amy GoodrowIsabelle's teenage daughter, who grapples with her own identity and desires while navigating the complexities of adolescence.
Mr. RobertsonIsabelle's enigmatic boss at the mill, whose presence stirs up hidden emotions within Isabelle.
Fat BevIsabelle's outspoken and lively coworker, who provides a source of support and friendship.

Plot Overview

Chapters 1-5

Isabelle and Amy's strained relationship is evident as they navigate their daily lives in Shirley Falls. Isabelle's internal struggles and suppressed desires come to the fore when Mr. Robertson, her boss, takes an interest in her. Amy, on the other hand, grapples with her burgeoning sexuality and a growing sense of independence.

Chapters 6-10

Tensions escalate between Isabelle and Amy, leading to a pivotal confrontation that brings their underlying issues to the surface. The town's reaction to the events further complicates their lives, adding to the emotional turmoil both mother and daughter experience.

Chapters 11-15

As the summer progresses, the characters confront their inner demons and long-held secrets. Isabelle's past is revealed, shedding light on her struggles and choices. Amy, too, is forced to confront her own desires and the consequences of her actions.

Chapters 16-20

The novel reaches a climactic point as the characters navigate the aftermath of the revelations. Isabelle and Amy are faced with the challenge of rebuilding their fractured relationship and finding a way to coexist amidst the emotional upheaval.

Main Events

  • Isabelle's interactions with Mr. Robertson spark a journey of self-discovery and reawakening.
  • Amy's exploration of her sexuality and desires leads to a rift between her and Isabelle.
  • The revelation of Isabelle's past choices and their impact on her present life.
  • The town's reaction to the events affecting Isabelle and Amy adds complexity to their struggles.

Themes and Insights


  1. Mother-Daughter Relationships: The novel delves deeply into the complexities of the bond between mothers and daughters, exploring the challenges, misunderstandings, and deep-seated love that characterize such relationships.
  2. Sexuality and Identity: Amy's journey of self-discovery and burgeoning sexuality serves as a focal point, highlighting the complexities and vulnerabilities of adolescence.
  3. Community and Judgment: The small-town setting magnifies the impact of social scrutiny and judgment, shedding light on the ripple effects of community perceptions.


  • Strout skillfully portrays the internal conflicts and desires of the characters, offering insights into the human psyche and the intricacies of personal growth.
  • The exploration of societal norms and expectations underscores the struggles faced by individuals in conforming to community standards while striving for personal fulfillment.

Reader's Takeaway

"Amy and Isabelle" offers readers a poignant exploration of the intricacies of human relationships, the complexities of family dynamics, and the enduring journey of self-discovery. Through rich character development and a vividly depicted setting, the novel resonates with readers on a deeply emotional level, eliciting introspection and empathy.


In "Amy and Isabelle," Elizabeth Strout masterfully crafts a narrative that captures the essence of human emotions and the intricate tapestry of relationships. The novel's exploration of the mother-daughter dynamic, the impact of societal judgment, and the complexities of personal growth leaves a lasting impression, making it a compelling and thought-provoking read.

Amy and Isabelle FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'Amy and Isabelle'?

    The genre of 'Amy and Isabelle' is literary fiction.

  2. Who is the author of 'Amy and Isabelle'?

    The author of 'Amy and Isabelle' is Elizabeth Strout.

  3. What is the main theme of 'Amy and Isabelle'?

    The main themes of 'Amy and Isabelle' include mother-daughter relationships, coming-of-age, and societal expectations.

  4. What is the setting of 'Amy and Isabelle'?

    The story is set in a small, New England town.

  5. What is the plot of 'Amy and Isabelle'?

    The novel revolves around the strained relationship between a mother, Isabelle, and her teenage daughter, Amy, and the secrets that threaten to tear their family apart.

  6. Is 'Amy and Isabelle' a standalone novel or part of a series?

    'Amy and Isabelle' is a standalone novel and is not part of a series.

  7. What are some similar books to 'Amy and Isabelle'?

    Readers who enjoyed 'Amy and Isabelle' may also like 'Olive Kitteridge' by Elizabeth Strout, 'Little Fires Everywhere' by Celeste Ng, and 'The Joy Luck Club' by Amy Tan.