Bates alumna's novel climbs bestseller list

The groundhog may not have seen his shadow this year, but he couldn’t avoid hearing the mid-winter buzz about Portland native and 1977 Bates College graduate Elizabeth Strout’s first novel, Amy and Isabelle (Random House, 1998). The book has climbed into the top 30 best Selling novels listed by The New York Times, who called it “one of those rare, invigorating books that takes an apparently familiar world and peers into it with ruthless intimacy, revealing a strange and startling place.”

The familiar world is the fictional New England mill town of Shirley Falls. Strout’s story focuses on a mother and teen-age daughter, and how their conflicts and missteps intertwine and intersect with other large and small dramas in the town. Strout attended Bates in Lewiston for four years and was active in Bates theater productions. She continued to work in the Lewiston Auburn area for a short time after graduation and has drawn on those experiences for the novel.

By early February, had the novel among its top 10, Time had called it an “assured debut” and the New Yorker described it as “an excellent novel about enduring the banalities of ordinary life– the challenges, as one character puts it, of eating the elephant one bite at a time.”

An English major while at Bates, Strout has published stories in Redbook, Seventeen and the New Yorker. She lives in Brooklyn.

To contact Strout, call her agent Sally Marvin at 212-572-2141 or Phyllis Graber Jensen in the Bates College Office of College Relations at 207-786 6330.

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