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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Plot ... widens

Elizabeth Strout's world is a place where bad things happen to dull people. Okay, that's too harsh. Still. She introduces these very ordinary, quiet, characters, demure and indistinct, ordinary people in an ordinary town, and then crime and tragedy crash down all around them like hail. After about 20 pretty quiet pp in the first chapter during which she introduces the two title characters, she ends it with a snap with the word that Amy's best friend (17 years old?) is pregnant. The next chapters introduce other major plot strands: a new (substitute) math teacher, Mr. Roberts, is making obviously inappropriate flirtatious even sexual comments about Amy. Amy is deeply troubled by the kidnapping of a 12-year-old in a nearby Maine town. All these incidents, but she's the calm within the storm. Most of the narrative concerns her relation with her mother. At first I thought Strout was fumbling a bit, as it wasn't clear if they got along well or if they were virtually estranged, but the more I read the more I think, yes, this is the way a teenage girl would relate to her mother, sometimes embarassed to be seen with her and can't bother to answer her questions or open conversation, and then soothing her mother with a touching remark ("you're pretty, too"). Four chapters in and a lot of material been set down but not clear where the story's going - though probably nowhere happy. And we still haven't opened up the mystery of why Isabelle moved to his town 14 years back with her young daughter. Is it true she was widowed? It's one of those very well-written and ominous books when you know something horrible's going to happen and you don't want to be caught unaware.

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