Elizabeth Strout is one of my favorite authors. Olive Kitteridge and Abide with Me have memorable characters and settings that feel as if I’ve been there. Her debut novel published in 1998, Amy and Isabelle, is my favorite. The back cover describes the story: “In most ways, Isabelle and Amy are like any mother and her 16-year-old daughter, a fierce mix of love and loathing exchanged in their every glance. That they eat, sleep, and work side by side in the gossip-ridden mill town of Shirley Falls only increases the tension. And just when it appears things can’t get any worse, Amy’s sexuality begins to unfold, causing a vast and icy rift between mother and daughter that will remain unbridgeable unless Isabelle examines her own secretive and shameful past.” http://www.amazon.com/Amy-Isabelle-novel-Elizabeth-Strout/dp/0375705198/
Alice Munro said of Amy and Isabelle, “A novel of shining integrity and humor, about the bravery and hard choices of what is called ordinary life.”
I met Strout at a reading from her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Olive Kitteridge at Pleasanton’s Towne Center Books. But, I wanted to talk about Amy and Isabelle. I admired her ability to make the mill where the mother and daughter worked so real that when I think about it, I’m there. The heat, the chatter from the female workers, the quality of light, etc. She asked me what I like to write, and I told her about Eva in the Haight but I said I didn’t know who my audience was and I thought my novel wasn’t saleable. She told me not to worry about who would read it or like it. We need to write the story we want to write. I believed her in spite of advice from several writing books that stressed knowing one’s audience.
Another mother and daughter story that ends with a surprise twist was recently written by Ann Winfred on her site, Coming of Age Croneicles. It’s called “Replica” and can be read at http://comingofagecroneicles.com/
One response to “Elizabeth Strout’s Amy and Isabelle and Ann Winfred’s Replica”
I can’t imagine what is meant by “know your audience”. You write, you put out the result, people either buy it or they don’t. If you have already been published and you have a fan base then, maybe, you can write to that audience.