In 60’s small-town New England, Isabelle Goodrow and her 16-year-old daughter Amy are having a tough summer. They are together all the time because Amy has a job in the mill office where Isabelle has worked for years, but they are presently resentful of each other and barely speak.
Although Amy has been harboring typical teenage feelings toward her mother, their problems go back a lot farther. Some of them have roots in how Isabelle has represented herself in town since she moved there. She has some social ambitions and thinks she is more refined than the other women who work in the office. Quietly in love with her married boss for years, she is concerned about how she and her daughter are perceived. She also has secrets.
But their immediate problems begin earlier that school year, when insecure Amy thinks she is in love.
This is my third Strout novel, and I like how observant she is of life in these small, conservative New England towns. She presents us with situations that are dramatic but common and has us examine the lives of ordinary people. Amy and Isabelle are hard on each other, as mothers and daughters can be, but they are also able to learn from their mistakes, even if the lessons are painful.