“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 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, about a tense and complicated mother/daughter relationship, won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for First Fiction. The novel’s 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, is the story of a recently widowed minister 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. O, The Oprah Magazine praised the novel as “perceptive, deeply empathetic… Olive is the axis around which these thirteen complex, relentlessly human narratives spin themselves into Elizabeth Strout’s unforgettable novel in stories.” Olive Kitteridge was adapted into an HBO miniseries starring Frances McDormand, which won eight Emmy Awards.
“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.”
—The New Yorker
Strout’s next book, The Burgess Boys: A Novel, is set in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, and 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.
In the #1 New York Times bestseller My Name is Lucy Barton, Strout returns to the tenderest and most problematic relationship of all—that 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.
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. A critically acclaimed stage adaptation of My Name is Lucy Barton opened in London in 2018, starring Golden Globe winner Laura Linney. The stage adaptation will open on Broadway in January 2020, with Linney again in the starring role.
Strout’s followup, Anything is Possible, won the 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.”
The interconnectedness that linked My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible–along with Amy and Isabelle and The Burgess Boys–will continue with the Fall 2019 publication of Olive, Again, which will return readers to Crosby, Maine and Olive Kitteridge’s second marriage.
In 2018, Strout was named a New York Public Library Lion, an annual honor recognizing those with lifelong achievements in literature. Other 2018 recipients include Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton; Oscar winner Francis Ford Coppola, and poet Claudia Rankine.
Born in Portland, Maine, Strout graduated from Bates College and Syracuse University College of Law. She 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.