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Elizabeth Strout

Author of Olive Kitteridge

16+ Works 26,583 Members 1,710 Reviews 55 Favorited

About the Author

Elizabeth Strout (born January 6, 1956) is an American author of fiction. She was born in Portland, Maine. After graduating from Bates College, she spent a year in Oxford, England. In 1982 she graduated with honors, and received both a law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law and a show more Certificate of Gerontology from the Syracuse School of Social Work. Strout wrote Amy and Isabelle over the course of six or seven years, which when published was shortlisted for the 2000 Orange Prize and nominated for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. Amy and Isabelle was made into a television movie starring Elisabeth Shue and was produced by Oprah Winfrey's studio, Harpo Films. Strout was a NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) professor at Colgate University during the Fall Semester of 2007, where she taught creative writing. She was also on the faculty of the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2009 Strout was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Olive Kitteridge, a collection of connected short stories she wrote about a woman and her immediate family who lived on the coast of Maine. Strout also wrote The Burgess Boys in 2013 which made The New York Times Best Seller List. Ms. Strout's title, My name is Lucy Barton, made the New York Times Best Seller List in 2016. Her newest title, Anything is Possible (2017), won the 2018 Story Prize. (Bowker Author Biography) show less


Works by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge (2008) 9,981 copies
My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016) 3,702 copies
The Burgess Boys (2013) 2,416 copies
Amy and Isabelle (1998) 2,211 copies
Olive, Again (2019) 2,112 copies
Anything Is Possible (2017) 1,942 copies
Oh William! (2021) 1,480 copies
Abide with Me (2006) 1,373 copies
Lucy by the Sea (2022) 1,055 copies
The Best American Short Stories 2013 (2013) — Editor — 280 copies
Tell Me Everything (2024) 17 copies
The Fort 1 copy

Associated Works

The Beautiful Summer (1940) — Introduction, some editions — 573 copies
Ethan Frome / Summer (1982) — Introduction, some editions — 303 copies
The Best American Mystery Stories 2008 (2008) — Contributor — 169 copies
It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art (2018) — Contributor — 75 copies
Providence Noir (2015) — Contributor — 47 copies
Dream Me Home Safely: Writers on Growing Up in America (2003) — Contributor — 40 copies
The Stories of Frederick Busch (2013) — Editor, some editions — 35 copies


2009 (80) 2016 (75) 2017 (66) 2022 (79) 21st century (74) aging (267) American (157) American fiction (102) American literature (177) audiobook (143) book club (147) contemporary (87) contemporary fiction (162) divorce (69) ebook (157) family (504) family relationships (72) fiction (2,867) grief (74) Kindle (166) literary fiction (186) literature (120) Maine (803) marriage (223) mothers and daughters (156) New England (203) New York (94) New York City (80) novel (270) own (89) poverty (148) Pulitzer (150) Pulitzer Prize (216) read (260) relationships (314) short stories (562) small town (199) to-read (1,537) unread (86) USA (143)

Common Knowledge

Portland, Maine, USA
Places of residence
Portland, Maine, USA
New York, New York, USA
Durham, New Hampshire, USA
Brunswick, Maine, USA
Bates College (BA, 1977)
Syracuse University (JD, 1982)
faculty (MFA program, Queens University)
fiction writer
lecturer (Creative Writing ∙ Colgate University)
Queens University of Charlotte
Molly Friedrich (Aaron Priest Literary Agency)
Short biography
Elizabeth Strout (born January 6, 1956) is a US-American novelist and author. She is widely known for her works in literary fiction and her descriptive characterization. Born and raised in Portland, Maine, her experiences in her youth served as inspiration for her novels–the fictional "Shirley Falls, Maine" is the setting of four of her seven novels.

Strout's first novel, Amy and Isabelle (1998) met with widespread critical acclaim, became a national bestseller, and was adapted into a movie starring Elisabeth Shue. Her second novel, Abide with Me (2006), received critical acclaim but ultimately failed to be recognized to the extent of her debut novel. Two years later, Strout wrote and published Olive Kitteridge (2008), to critical and commercial success grossing nearly $25 million with over one million copies sold as of May 2017. The novel won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The book was adapted into a multi Emmy Award-winning mini series and became a New York Times bestseller.

Five years later, she published The Burgess Boys (2013), which became a national bestseller. My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016) was met with international acclaim and topped the New York Times bestseller list. Lucy Barton later became the main character in Strout's 2017 novel, Anything is Possible. A sequel to Olive Kitteridge, titled Olive, Again, was published in 2019.



In Tell Me Everything, author Elizabeth Strout takes us back to a very familiar location (Crosby, Maine) and into the company of some long-cherished characters (Olive Kitteridge, Lucy Barton, Bob Burgess). The ostensible plot of the book revolves around how Bob, a semi-retired attorney, attempts to prove that Matt Beach, a sad and lonely local man, did not murder his invalid mother, despite what everyone else in the town seems to think. But, of course, in the hands of such a masterful writer, this main storyline is not really the point. Instead, what the reader gets is a tender and empathetic look into the hearts and the minds of these beloved protagonists as they experience the emotional pleasures and pains of navigating myriad aspects of connecting with other people as they grow older.

Given the murder mystery story arc that threads through most of the book, it is tempting to say that Bob Burgess—perhaps the least prominent of the main characters in the author’s past catalog of work—is the focus of attention. However, that really is not the case as it is Lucy Barton who is in the middle of every significant passage. Indeed, when he is not interacting with his client or his sometimes-distant wife Margaret, Bob spends his time thinking about—pining away for, really—how much he would rather be with Lucy. Further, Olive, such a complex, interesting, and infuriating character in other novels, only appears here as a person to whom Lucy can tell stories about some cathartic events from her own past. In fact, if I have a complaint about how this book was structured, it is that we get too much Lucy and not enough Olive. That may have been inevitable, though, as Lucy appears to be the author’s alter ego.

But that is a minor quibble that in no way detracted from my enjoyment of this heartfelt and satisfying story. Strout truly is a gifted writer, and she especially excels at capturing the little nuances of how we interact with one another as well as how those interactions shape and impact our lives. While the plotline involving the disappearance of Matt’s mother (which is resolved, by the way) sets the frame for the novel, it is the way that the unrequited love affair between Bob and Lucy is rendered that made this such a worthwhile reading experience for me. Beyond that, it was great to bring all these characters that have been developed in separate past treatments into featured roles in the same work, much like gathering the cast of an ensemble production on stage for a collective curtain call. I only hope that does not mean we have now seen the last of Bob, Lucy, and Olive; if so, they will be dearly missed.
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browner56 | Jun 15, 2024 |
he thirteen short stories that make up Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge all feature the main character at least once. Sometimes she's the center of it. Sometimes she's a passing reference between two other people who live in her small Maine town. It moves roughly chronologically, beginning when Olive and her husband Henry are already older and headed toward retirement (though the first story, about Henry, is mostly a flashback), and their son Christopher is an adult. Olive negotiates her relationships with her family and her community at large as they all change, slowly but inexorably...or, often just as aggravatingly for her, don't change much at all.

Though many of the lives we encounter look at least moderately happy on the surface, there's often profound sadness lurking underneath. This is not new territory, suburban dysfunction and familial drama, and while there's nothing special plot-wise it's Strout's skill as a writer that makes this book shine. Each story is a whole unto itself but subtly builds to create a full picture of Olive, her strengths and her flaws. She can be infuriating, as when she deals with the fear from finding herself the victim of a crime by berating her husband, and she can be deeply relatable and sympathetic, like when she overhears her new daughter-in-law mocking the dress she made herself for their wedding. She is stubborn and proud and controlling and rendered with profound emotional truth. Strout never has to explicitly ascribe these qualities to Olive, because she understands the power of showing rather than telling, which she does in spare-yet-lovely prose.

As in any short story collection, some entries are stronger than others. I loved the first one, "Pharmacy" about Olive's husband's long-ago infatuation with a shy technician at his pharmacy, and two where Olive is only a background mention, "Winter Concert" and "Ship in a Bottle". Some others, like "Tulips" and "The Piano Player", failed to move me. But one of the upsides to reading short stories is that even if you don't care for a particular story, it'll be over soon! I'll be honest, I was not looking forward to reading this book, because it felt like I was in a rut of books that were interconnected vignettes without strong central plots and I wanted to read something with more structure. Happily, though, it's good enough that I found myself very much enjoying it and I'd highly recommend it even if you're skeptical of short stories!
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ghneumann | 623 other reviews | Jun 14, 2024 |
Very different in structure and complexity from Olive Kitteridge, which is one of my favorite novels. But I relished the intimacy of this story, and the poetry of many passages and insights. Strout knows people, she knows their loneliness and suffering, and she knows how love and connection (however tenuous) can ease that suffering. Heartbreaking and beautiful novel.
prairiemage | 291 other reviews | May 29, 2024 |
All the stars!

Elizabeth Strout makes ordinary life extraordinary in this book's vignettes. I know I'll be reading this one again and again every few years as I'm sure to pick up on new details each time.
jj24 | 131 other reviews | May 27, 2024 |


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