Elizabeth Strout

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Elizabeth Strout
Strout at the 2015 Texas Book Festival
Strout at the 2015 Texas Book Festival
BornElizabeth Strout
(1956-01-06) January 6, 1956 (age 66)[1]
Portland, Maine, U.S.
OccupationAuthor and short-story writer
Alma materBates College
Syracuse University
GenreLiterary fiction
Notable worksAmy and Isabelle
Abide with Me
Olive Kitteridge
The Burgess Boys
My Name Is Lucy Barton
Anything Is Possible
Olive, Again
SpouseJames Tierney

Elizabeth Strout (born January 6, 1956) is an American novelist and author. She is widely known for her works in literary fiction and her descriptive characterization. She was born and raised in Portland, Maine, and 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.[2][3]

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.[4] 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.[4] The novel won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.[5] The book was adapted into a multi Emmy Award-winning mini series and became a New York Times bestseller.[6]

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[7][8][9][4] 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.

Early life and education[edit]

Strout was born in Portland, Maine, and was raised in small towns in Maine and Durham, New Hampshire. Her father was a science professor, and her mother was an English professor and also taught writing in a nearby high school.[10][11]

After graduating from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, she spent a year in Oxford, England, followed by studies at law school for another year. In 1982, she graduated with honors, and received a J.D. degree from the Syracuse University College of Law.[12] That year her first story was published in New Letters magazine.[11]


Early career[edit]

Strout moved to New York City, where she waitressed and began developing early novels and stories to little success. She continued to write stories that were published in literary magazines, as well as in Redbook and Seventeen. She enrolled in Law School at Syracuse University, and practiced law for six months before a funding cut ended her job as a Syracuse legal-services advocate.[13] In an interview with Terry Gross in January 2015 she said of the experience, "law school was more of an operation, I think."[10] She stated in a 2016 interview with The Morning News,

I wanted to be a writer so much 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—you know, because they look at you with such looks of pity. I just couldn’t stand that.[11]

Rise to prominence with Amy and Isabelle[edit]

While teaching part-time at Borough of Manhattan Community College,[14] Strout worked for six or seven years to complete her book Amy and Isabelle, which when published was shortlisted for the 2000 Orange Prize and nominated for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction.[11] Amy and Isabelle was adapted as a television movie, starring Elisabeth Shue and produced by Oprah Winfrey's studio, Harpo Films.[11]

Strout was a National Endowment for the Humanities lecturer at Colgate University during the fall semester of 2007, where she taught creative writing at both the introductory and advanced levels. She was also on the faculty of the master of fine arts (MFA) program at Queens University of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina.[11]

Olive Kitteridge and its Pulitzer Prize[edit]

Strout being interviewed in Rome, Italy

Abide with Me was published in 2006 by Random House to further critical acclaim. Ron Charles of The Washington Post summarized her book by saying: "as she did in her bestselling debut, Amy and Isabelle, Strout sets her second novel in a small New England town, whose natural beauty she returns to again and again as this tale unfolds against the background of the Cold War tensions of the 1950s."[15] The New Yorker welcomed the novel with a positive review: "with superlative skill, Strout challenges us to examine what makes a good story—and what makes a good life."[16] Goodreads rated the novel 3.75 stars out of 5.[17]

Strout's third book, Olive Kitteridge, was published two years later in 2008. The book featured a collection of connected short stories about a woman and her immediate family and friends on the coast of Maine.[18] Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker called the short stories "taciturn, elegant."[19] In 2009, it was announced that the novel won the year's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.[18] The book became a New York Times bestseller and won the Premio Bancarella Award, at an event held in the medieval Piazza della Repubblica in Pontremoli, Italy. Louisa Thomas, writing in The New York Times, said:

The pleasure in reading Olive Kitteridge 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.[11]

The Burgess Boys and recent work[edit]

The Burgess Boys was published on March 26, 2013, to further critical acclaim. A New York Times review noted that Strout "handles her storytelling with grace, intelligence and low-key humor, demonstrating a great ear for the many registers in which people speak to their loved ones," but criticized her for not developing certain characters.[20] NPR noted the novel by saying: "This is an ambitious novel that wants to train its gaze on the flotsam and jetsam of thought, as well as on big-issue topics like the politics of immigration and the possibility of second chances."[21] The book became her second New York Times bestseller.[22] The Washington Post reviewed it with the following observation: "[T]he broad social and political range of The Burgess Boys shows just how impressively this extraordinary writer continues to develop."[3]

After a three-year break, she published My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016),[23] a story about Lucy Barton, a recovering patient from an operation who reconnects with her estranged mother. The New York Times reviewed it with the following observation: "there is not a scintilla of sentimentality in this exquisite novel. Instead, in its careful words and vibrating silences, My Name Is Lucy Barton offers us a rare wealth of emotion, from darkest suffering to—‘I was so happy. Oh, I was happy’—simple joy."[24] The novel topped The New York Times bestseller list.[24][7][25] It was also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Strout broke from her usual multi-year break in between novels to publish Anything is Possible (2017)–her sixth novel.[26] Anything is Possible was called a "literary mean joke"[25] due to its "hurting men and women, desperate for liberation from their wounds" in contrast to its title. The novel had her noted as "a master of the story cycle" by Heller McCalpin of NPR.[26] It was largely seen as an advance on her previous book[7][8][9][4] due to its "ability to render quiet portraits of the indignities and disappointments of normal life, and the moments of grace and kindness we are gifted in response" according to Susan Scarf Merrell of The Washington Post.[27] Anything is Possible won The Story Prize for books published in 2017.[28]

A sequel to Olive Kitteridge, titled Olive, Again, was published in October 2019.[29]

In October 2021, Oh William! was published.[30] The novel revisits the world of Lucy Barton, and according to Strout, is primarily about "how hard it is ever to know anyone, including ourselves".[13] On July 26, 2022, it was named on the longlist of the 2022 Booker Prize.[31]

Personal life[edit]

Strout is married to former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, lecturer in law at Harvard Law School[32] and founding director of State AG, an educational resource on the office of state attorney general.[33] She divides her time between New York City and Brunswick, Maine.[11]



  • Amy and Isabelle (1998) ISBN 978-1-84983-304-2, OCLC 1019991003
  • Abide with Me (2006) ISBN 978-0-7434-6228-0, OCLC 992776727
  • Olive Kitteridge (2008) ISBN 978-1-4558-1505-0, OCLC 765624834
  • The Burgess Boys (2013) ISBN 978-1-4711-2738-0, OCLC 990775129
  • My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016) ISBN 978-0-8129-7952-7, OCLC 978251684[23]
  • Anything is Possible (2017) ISBN 978-0-241-24879-9, OCLC 1023363064
  • Olive, Again (2019) ISBN 978-0-8129-8647-1, OCLC 1184681389
  • Oh William! (2021) ISBN 978-0-8129-8943-4, OCLC 1200038997
  • Lucy by the Sea (2022) ISBN 978-0-593-44606-5,

Essays and other contributions[edit]

Critical studies and reviews of Strout's work[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica almanac 2010. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-61535-329-3. Retrieved March 3, 2016. Elizabeth Strout january 1956.
  2. ^ Mackay, Shena (July 13, 2013). "The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Charles, Ron; Charles, Ron (March 19, 2013). "Elizabeth Strout's 'The Burgess Boys,' reviewed by Ron Charles". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Levy, Ariel (April 24, 2017). "Elizabeth Strout's Long Homecoming". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  5. ^ "The 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Fiction". www.pulitzer.org. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  6. ^ Griggs, Brandon. "'Olive Kitteridge,' 'Game of Thrones' big Emmy winners". CNN. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Barrett, Andrea (May 12, 2017). "Elizabeth Strout's Follow-Up to 'Lucy Barton' Is a Master Class on Class". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Lowdon, Claire (May 7, 2017). "Books: Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout". The Times. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Sacks, Sam (April 21, 2017). "Elizabeth Strout's "Anything Is Possible" Is a Small Wonder". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Gross, Terry (January 13, 2016). "'My Ears Are Open': Novelist Elizabeth Strout Finds Inspiration In Everyday Life". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Birnbaum, Robert. "Elizabeth Strout". The Morning News. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  12. ^ "The Write Stuff: Syracuse University College of Law". law.syr.edu. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Bobrow, Emily (October 15, 2021). "Novelist Elizabeth Strout Never Judges Her Characters". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 4, 2022. (subscription required)
  14. ^ Egan, Elisabeth (September 3, 2022). "At 66, Elizabeth Strout Has Reached Maximum Productivity". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  15. ^ Charles, Ron (March 19, 2006). "Running on Faith". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  16. ^ Briefly Noted (April 3, 2006). "Abide with Me". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  17. ^ "Abide with Me". Goodreads. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  18. ^ a b Thompson, Bob (August 4, 2009). "Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winner Elizabeth Strout Talks Writing, 'Olive Kitteridge'". ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  19. ^ Nussbaum, Emily (October 27, 2014). ""Olive Kitteridge" and "Jane the Virgin" Reviews". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  20. ^ Brownrigg, Sylvia (April 26, 2013). "'The Burgess Boys,' by Elizabeth Strout". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  21. ^ Corrigan, Maureen (April 1, 2013). "'Burgess Boys' Family Saga Explores The Authenticity Of Imperfection". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  22. ^ "The Burgess Boys". Elizabeth Strout. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  23. ^ a b "My Name is Lucy Barton". Elizabeth Strout. Archived from the original on July 2, 2018. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  24. ^ a b Messud, Claire (January 4, 2016). "Elizabeth Strout's 'My Name Is Lucy Barton'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  25. ^ a b Senior, Jennifer (April 26, 2017). "Elizabeth Strout's Lovely New Novel Is a Requiem for Small-Town Pain". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  26. ^ a b McAlpine, Heller (April 25, 2017). "'Anything Is Possible' Is Unafraid To Be Gentle". NPR.org. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  27. ^ Merrell, Susan Scarf (April 24, 2017). "'Anything Is Possible' demonstrates what Elizabeth Strout does best". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  28. ^ McMurtrie, John (February 28, 2018). "Elizabeth Strout wins Story Prize for 'Anything Is Possible". San Francisco Chronicle.
  29. ^ Weaver, Kendal (October 14, 2019). "New stories of an aging Olive in 'Olive, Again'". Associated Press. Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  30. ^ Woodson, Jacqueline; Wood, Charlotte; Gyasi, Yaa (June 27, 2022). "Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout: 9780812989441". PenguinRandomhouse.com. Retrieved June 30, 2022.
  31. ^ Bayley, Sian (July 26, 2022). "Booker Prize longlist dominated by indies as judges pick youngest and oldest ever nominees". The Bookseller. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  32. ^ School, Harvard Law. "James E. Tierney | Harvard Law School". Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  33. ^ "StateAG.org". StateAG.org. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  34. ^ Online version is titled "Elizabeth Strout's long homecoming".

External links[edit]