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Strout's satisfying follow-up to her 1999 debut, Amy and Isabel, follows a recent widower from grief through breakdown to recovery in 1959 smalltown Maine. The father of two young girls and the newly appointed minister of the fictional town of West Annett, Tyler Caskey is quietly devastated by wife Lauren's death following a prolonged illness. Tyler's older daughter Katherine is deeply antisocial at school and at home; his adorable younger daughter Jeannie has been sent to live upstate with Tyler's overbearing mother. Talk begins to spread of Katherine's increasing unsoundness and of Tyler's possible affair with his devoted-though-suspicious housekeeper, Connie Hatch. It's spearheaded by the gossipy Ladies' Aide Society, whose members bear down on Tyler like the dark clouds of a gathering storm. Meanwhile, Tyler's grief shades into an angry, cynical depression, leaving him unable to parent his troubled daughter or minister to his congregation, and putting his job and family at risk. Strout's deadpan, melancholy prose powerfully conveys Tyler's sense of internal confinement. The uplifting ending arrives too easily, but on the whole, Strout has crafted a harrowing meditation of exile on Main Street. (Mar.)
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Strout's quiet, graceful second novel is much like its hero, minister Tyler Caskey: earnest, introspective, and prone to occasional outbursts of deeply felt emotion. Set in the small town of West Annett, Maine, in the 1950s, the novel focuses on the two years after the death of Tyler's vibrant, charismatic wife, Lauren. Although Tyler has always been well liked in West Annett, Lauren never fit in with the wives in the village, who were put off by her stylish clothing and aloof nature. Now their young daughter Katherine is finding herself equally ostracized, and Tyler is offended and disturbed when Katherine's teacher suggests the girl might need to talk with the school counselor. Distressed, Tyler turns to his only ally, his unobtrusive but observant housekeeper, Connie Hatch. But Connie has secrets of her own, and when word gets out that the police want her for questioning about a series of thefts, she disappears. Readers who enjoyed Strout's first book, Amy and Isabelle (1999), will find much to move them in this tale of a man trying to get past his grief amid a town full of colorful people with their own secrets and heartaches. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.