Elizabeth Strout is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge, the bestsellers Abide With Me, The Burgess Boys, My Name is Lucy Barton, and the award-winning Amy and Isabelle, all set in New England, all exploring the twists and turns of family dynamics, small-town gossip, and experiences of love, loss, and grief.
Strout herself was raised in small towns in New Hampshire and Maine, and proudly holds New England roots that go back eight and ten generations, on either side. This upbringing, which Strout describes as “isolated (my parents were very, very, very strict),” informs her literary work. As soon as she learned to put pen to paper, her mother bought her notebooks and told her to transcribe all she saw, no matter how quotidian. During the summer months of her childhood she played outdoors, either with her brother, or, more often, alone, and this is where she developed her deep and abiding love of the physical world: the seaweed covered rocks along the coast of Maine, and the woods of New Hampshire with its hidden wildflowers. “I wanted to be a writer so much,” Strout says, “that the idea of failing at it was almost unbearable to me. I really didn’t tell people, as I grew older, that I wanted to be a writer.”
Strout is a careful writer who takes her time to craft polished, fascinating prose. Each book took more than seven years to complete and has earned her praise for characters that are “blunt, flawed and fascinating.” In a New York Times book review, Louisa Thomas writes: “The pleasure in reading Strout comes from an intense identification with complicated, not always admirable, characters. And there are moments in which slipping into a character’s viewpoint seems to involve the revelation of an emotion more powerful and interesting than simple fellow feeling–a complex, sometimes dark, sometimes life-sustaining dependency on others. There’s nothing mawkish or cheap here. There’s simply the honest recognition that we need to try to understand people, even if we can’t stand them.”
In addition to winning the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Olive Kitteridge, My Name is Lucy Barton (2016), The Burgess Boys (2013) Abide With Me (2006) were all national best sellers, and her debut novel Amy and Isabelle (1998) swept up both the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker and O: The Oprah Magazine. She is on the faculty of the M.F.A. program at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and lives in New York City.