Review – Abide with Me

Elizabeth Strout 2006 Simon & Schuster Books

A sad story of grief about a family responding to and recovering from the death of Lauren Caskey, wife to Tyler and mother of Katherine and Jeannie.  Following the death Tyler tries to carry on as normal in his role as Minister in the small town of West Annett.  Jeannie, a baby and too young to understand goes to live with her grandmother and Katherine is silenced by grief as she struggles on.  The impact of grief is acute in this book for both Tyler and Katherine and the willingness of the community to accept Tyler in carrying on and the subsequent judgement of his ‘failings’ all serve to leave Katherine isolated and alone and her loss all but forgotten.

As per Strout’s other books this focuses on a small American community as they go about their daily business, secrets and struggles aplenty.  The story of Tyler and his wife Lauren is told, from how they met to their marriage, move to West Annett and start of family life and their roles within the community of Minister and Minister’s Wife.  Strout as always captures the human aspect wonderfully, the allegiances, the affronts, the hurts and the impact these have on the grapevine of this particular small town.

This book was a slower read for me than the books by Strout I have previously read.  Only her second piece of published fiction and I think the development and maturity in her writing is evident in subsequent books.  That said this was an enjoyable, albeit sad story and again, to a lesser extent gave the reader the sense of being there, hearing various perspectives and knowing one truth and I think it is this writing style that really draws me to Elizabeth Strout and her character driven stories.

A nice read, not her best, but absolutely recommended for those fans like me who simply enjoy her writing.

Wraps itself around the reader like a patchwork quilt…a masterful and compelling portrait of a flawed parent – child relationship

Financial Times

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