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Abide with Meby Elizabeth Strout
Synopses & Reviews
In her luminous and long-awaited new novel, bestselling author Elizabeth Strout welcomes readers back to the archetypal, lovely landscape of northern New England, where the events of her first novel, Amy and Isabelle, unfolded. In the late 1950s, in the small town of West Annett, Maine, a minister struggles to regain his calling, his family, and his happiness in the wake of profound loss. At the same time, the community he has served so charismatically must come to terms with its own strengths and failings — faith and hypocrisy, loyalty and abandonment-when a dark secret is revealed.
Tyler Caskey has come to love West Annett, just up the road from where he was born. The short, brilliant summers and the sharp, piercing winters fill him with awe — as does his congregation, full of good people who seek his guidance and listen earnestly as he preaches. But after suffering a terrible loss, Tyler finds it hard to return to himself as he once was. He hasn't had The Feeling — that God is all around him, in the beauty of the world — for quite some time. He struggles to find the right words in his sermons and in his conversations with those facing crises of their own, and to bring his five-year-old daughter, Katherine, out of the silence she has observed in the wake of the family's tragedy.
A congregation that had once been patient and kind during Tyler's grief now questions his leadership and propriety. In the kitchens, classrooms, offices, and stores of the village, anger and gossip have started to swirl. And in Tyler's darkest hour, a startling discovery will test his congregation's humanity — and his own will to endure the kinds of trials that sooner or later test us all.
In prose incandescent and artful, Elizabeth Strout draws readers into the details of ordinary life in a way that makes it extraordinary. All is considered — life, love, God, and community — within these pages, and all is made new by this writer's boundless compassion and graceful prose.
"In Strout's graceful if languid second novel, set in the cold northern reaches of New England during the Cold War, Tyler Caskey is a young minister tending to the faith of his small, gossipy parish. He's also struggling with the aftermath of his wife's premature death, which has left him with two little girls to raise. What the plot lacks in pace and surprise, Strout makes up for with intelligent, revealing portraits of many characters, and Raphael's versatile voice makes them even more memorable. Her voice shrinks remarkably to speak the lines of Caskey's traumatized older daughter; turns gruff and unhappy for Charles Austin, a church deacon wrestling with his own secret demons; and ratchets up into startlingly cold and imperious territories for Caskey's meddling mother. Raphael deftly switches from the plummy, slightly British-accented voice she uses for most of the narration to speak in the drawn-out, nasal tones of Caskey's plainspoken, friendly housekeeper. Though the abridgment cuts out some of the background story, events are still sometimes drawn out. But fans of such closely observed period pieces will no doubt revel in Strout's evocative prose and in Raphael's richly textured interpretation." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Strout captures the mysterious combination of hope and sorrow. She sees all these wounded people with heartbreaking clarity, but she has managed to write a story that cradles them in understanding and that, somehow, seems like a foretaste of salvation." Washington Post
"With superlative skill, Strout challenges us to examine what makes a good story — and what makes a good life." The New Yorker
"A melancholy tale of faith lostand found and an unhappy look at small-town life." Kirkus Reviews
"The power of Abide With Me is its true reflection of the moments that guide or misdirect a life. These often aren't the moments of high drama, though the death of a loved one can be a compelling force." Denver Post
"[A] book to curl up with on a bleak day, a book that isn't embarrassed to assert that 'where there are people, there is always the hope of love.'" San Francisco Chronicle
"Strout's story is dark and her characters often reveal their less positive sides, but in the end, she gives us individuals whose lives are deepened and transformed in this sensitive and challenging work." Rocky Mountain News
About the Author
Elizabeth Strout's first novel, Amy and Isabelle, won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award as well as the Orange Prize in England. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker. Currently she is on the faculty of the low-residency M.F.A. program at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. She lives in New York City.
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