“It is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ that interests me as a writer, but the murkiness of human experience and the consistent imperfections of our lives.”
With her finely drawn characters and incisive prose, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Elizabeth Strout uses the quiet rhythms of the everyday and the natural beauty of northern New England to illuminate the depth of grief and the breadth of joy in even the most ordinary lives.
Publishers Weekly writes, “Her unsentimental writing and sharp-eyed vision elevate the quotidian, finding truths that are at once heartbreaking and illuminating—and never, never dull.”
Strout’s first novel, Amy and Isabelle, won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for First Fiction and was made into a television movie. Set in the New England mill town of Shirley Falls, it tells the story of Amy Goodrow, a high school student whose relationship with her mother Isabelle has become strained since Amy was found in a compromising situation with her math teacher. But the story’s true drama, writes Suzanne Berne in The New York Times, “lies in the palpable, intricate way it examines the ‘scrape of longing’ that drives these characters toward human contact, leaving them raw and bleeding yet also more fully alive.”
Abide with Me, Strout’s second novel, revisits the landscape of northern New England with the tale of Tyler Caskey, a recently widowed minister who is struggling to regain his calling, his family, and his happiness in the wake of profound loss.
Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her 2008 novel Olive Kitteridge, which weaves together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into one masterful story anchored by unforgettable characters. The New Yorker says that Strout “animates the ordinary with astonishing force. . . . [She] makes us experience not only the terrors of change but also the terrifying hope that change can bring: she plunges us into these churning waters and we come up gasping for air.” Olive Kitteridge was adapted into an HBO miniseries in 2014 starring Frances McDormand. It won eight Emmy Awards.
Strout’s next book, The Burgess Boys: A Novel, was published in 2013. Set in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, The Burgess Boys centers on two brothers from Strout’s native Maine. “Strout’s prose propels the story forward with moments of startlingly poetic clarity,” wrote Elizabeth Minkel in The New Yorker.
Strout’s #1 New York Times bestselling novel My Name is Lucy Barton was longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize and named one of the Best Books of 2016 by NPR and The New York Times. The stage adaptation of My Name is Lucy Barton opens in London in June 2018, starring Golden Globe winner Laura Linney.
In My Name is Lucy Barton, Strout shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender and problematic relationship of all—the one between mother and daughter. Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken in years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, and her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.
Strout’s followup, Anything is Possible, won the 2018 Story Prize, the most prestigious award in the US for a collection of short stories. It is set in the same world as Lucy Barton, and while it can stand alone, it also acts as a companion to the previous book, fleshing out the stories and characters first discussed between Lucy and her mother. NPR praised Anything is Possible, writing “[Strout] paints cumulative portraits of the heartache and soul of small-town America by giving each of her characters a turn under her sympathetic spotlight.”
Born in Portland, Maine, Strout graduated from Bates College with a degree in English in 1977. She received a law degree along with a Certificate in Gerontology from Syracuse University College of Law. Strout has taught creative writing at Manhattan College, The New School, Bard College, Colgate University, and Queens University of Charlotte. She divides her time between Maine and New York City.
For more information on Elizabeth Strout, please visit elizabethstrout.com.