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Popular Culture and Critical Pedagogy: Reading, Constructing, Connectingby Toby Daspit
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.
"Strout's satisfying follow-up to her 1999 debut, Amy and Isabelle, follows a recent widower from grief through breakdown to recovery in 1959 smalltown Maine. The father of two young girls and the newly appointed minister of the fictional town of West Annett, Tyler Caskey is quietly devastated by wife Lauren's death following a prolonged illness. Tyler's older daughter Katherine is deeply antisocial at school and at home; his adorable younger daughter Jeannie has been sent to live upstate with Tyler's overbearing mother. Talk begins to spread of Katherine's increasing unsoundness and of Tyler's possible affair with his devoted-though-suspicious housekeeper, Connie Hatch. It's spearheaded by the gossipy Ladies' Aide Society, whose members bear down on Tyler like the dark clouds of a gathering storm. Meanwhile, Tyler's grief shades into an angry, cynical depression, leaving him unable to parent his troubled daughter or minister to his congregation, and putting his job and family at risk. Strout's deadpan, melancholy prose powerfully conveys Tyler's sense of internal confinement. The uplifting ending arrives too easily, but on the whole, Strout has crafted a harrowing meditation of exile on Main Street." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] quiet, graceful second novel...earnest, introspective, and prone to occasional outbursts of deeply felt emotion....Readers who enjoyed...Amy and Isabelle will find much to move them in this tale..." Booklist
"[T]he redemptive ending doesn't quite make up for the gloom and spitefulness of the preceding pages. A melancholy tale of faith lostand found and an unhappy look at small-town life." Kirkus Reviews
"[R]adiates a humane, life-affirming warmth....Abide With Me is 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
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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