Fifteen-year old Amy and her mother live at Oyster Point, the posh end of Shirley Falls, Maine. Single mother Isabelle doesn't have the confidence or means to mix with the well-heeled wives of the neighbourhood. Lonely Amy embarks on a relationship with her charismatic maths teacher who seduces her by quoting the poetry of Edna St Vincent Millay. Meanwhile the soapy, sudsy river which divides Shirley Falls churns around the mill where Isabelle works as a secretary and the women in the office bicker and gossip.
There are many wonderful moments in this novel - Isabelle and Amy sharing doughnuts in the steamy coffee shop and Amy's fleeting moment of happiness, Isabelle trying to improve her mind by reading Madame Bovary which the women in the mill nickname 'Madame Ovary', kind Fat Bev's battles with her digestion and the way the river reflects the events of the novel. There is also the recurring motif of a missing 12-year-old girl which turns the novel almost into a thriller at the end.
Strout is an earthier writer than Tyler (her characters say f**k!) but has the same gift for dialogue and humour. I've ordered her novel Abide With Me and Olive Kitteridge a collection of short stories, both set in Maine. Do let me know if you've read Elizabeth Strout, I'm sure I've seen reviews of Olive Kitteridge around the blogosphere but can't remember where. I'd like to re-read them.