Abide with Me [NOOK Book]

Overview

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

In her luminous and long-awaited novel, bestselling author Elizabeth Strout welcomes readers back to the archetypal, lovely landscape of northern New England, where the events of her first novel, Amy and Isabelle, unfolded. In the late 1950s, in the small town of West Annett, Maine, a minister struggles to regain his calling, his family, and his happiness in the wake of profound loss. At the same time, the community he has ...
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Abide with Me

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Overview

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

In her luminous and long-awaited novel, bestselling author Elizabeth Strout welcomes readers back to the archetypal, lovely landscape of northern New England, where the events of her first novel, Amy and Isabelle, unfolded. In the late 1950s, in the small town of West Annett, Maine, a minister struggles to regain his calling, his family, and his happiness in the wake of profound loss. At the same time, the community he has served so charismatically must come to terms with its own strengths and failings—faith and hypocrisy, loyalty and abandonment—when a dark secret is revealed.

Tyler Caskey has come to love West Annett, “just up the road” from where he was born. The short, brilliant summers and the sharp, piercing winters fill him with awe—as does his congregation, full of good people who seek his guidance and listen earnestly as he preaches. But after suffering a terrible loss, Tyler finds it hard to return to himself as he once was. He hasn’t had The Feeling—that God is all around him, in the beauty of the world—for quite some time. He struggles to find the right words in his sermons and in his conversations with those facing crises of their own, and to bring his five-year-old daughter, Katherine, out of the silence she has observed in the wake of the family’s tragedy.

A congregation that had once been patient and kind during Tyler’s grief now questions his leadership and propriety. In the kitchens, classrooms, offices, and stores of the village, anger and gossip have started to swirl. And in Tyler’s darkest hour, a startling discovery will test his congregation’ s humanity—and his own will to endure the kinds of trials that sooner or later test us all.

In prose incandescent and artful, Elizabeth Strout draws readers into the details of ordinary life in a way that makes it extraordinary. All is considered—life, love, God, and community—within these pages, and all is made new by this writer’s boundless compassion and graceful prose.

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys.

Praise for Abide with Me
 
“Strout’s greatly anticipated second novel . . . is an answered prayer.”Vanity Fair
 
“Superb . . . a shimmering tale of loss, faith, and human fallibility . . . You feel yourself in the hands of a master storyteller.”O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“Deeply moving . . . In one beautiful page after another, Strout captures the mysterious combinations of hope and sorrow. She sees all these wounded people with heartbreaking clarity, but she has managed to write a story that cradles them in understanding and that, somehow, seems like a foretaste of salvation.”The Washington Post
 
“This lovely second novel confirms Strout as the possessor of an irresistibly companionable, peculiarly American voice: folksy, poetic, but always as precise as a shadow on a brilliant winter day.”The Atlantic Monthly
 
“Graceful and moving . . . The pacing of Strout’s deeply felt fiction about the distance between parents and children gives her work an addictive quality.”People (four stars)
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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
Dark as much of this beautiful novel is, there's finally healing here, and, as Tyler should have known, it comes not from strength and self-sufficiency but from accepting the inexplicable love of others. In one beautiful page after another, Strout captures the mysterious combination of hope and sorrow. She sees all these wounded people with heartbreaking clarity, but she has managed to write a story that cradles them in understanding and that, somehow, seems like a foretaste of salvation.
— The Washington Post
The New Yorker
The handsome minister Tyler Caskey, of West Annett, Maine, is beloved by his parishioners because he really does think they’re all God’s children. But in the bleak autumn of 1959, more than a year after the death of his wife, Tyler is still awash in grief. The man who once held them rapt from the pulpit now appears ridiculous up there—“like a big tractor being driven by a teenage kid, slipping in and out of gear”—and his daughter has started screaming and spitting in kindergarten. How can he lead them if he himself is lost? Just as she did in her first novel, “Amy and Isabelle,” Strout has created an absorbing world peopled by characters who argue the merits of canned cranberry sauce and using one’s turn signal; meanwhile, dark fears about Freud and Khrushchev run beneath the surface of their lives like water under ice. With superlative skill, Strout challenges us to examine what makes a good story—and what makes a good life.
Publishers Weekly
In Strout's graceful if languid second novel, set in the cold northern reaches of New England during the Cold War, Tyler Caskey is a young minister tending to the faith of his small, gossipy parish. He's also struggling with the aftermath of his wife's premature death, which has left him with two little girls to raise. What the plot lacks in pace and surprise, Strout makes up for with intelligent, revealing portraits of many characters, and Raphael's versatile voice makes them even more memorable. Her voice shrinks remarkably to speak the lines of Caskey's traumatized older daughter; turns gruff and unhappy for Charles Austin, a church deacon wrestling with his own secret demons; and ratchets up into startlingly cold and imperious territories for Caskey's meddling mother. Raphael deftly switches from the plummy, slightly British-accented voice she uses for most of the narration to speak in the drawn-out, nasal tones of Caskey's plainspoken, friendly housekeeper. Though the abridgment cuts out some of the background story, events are still sometimes drawn out. But fans of such closely observed period pieces will no doubt revel in Strout's evocative prose and in Raphael's richly textured interpretation. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 17). (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
After the multi-award-winning Amy and Isabelle, Strout finally returns with the story of a preacher torn asunder by his daring young wife's death. The parishioners who should be helping him are instead cold as stone. With a national author tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The author of Amy and Isabelle (1999) returns with her second novel. Strout earned critical acclaim and nominations for a few prestigious awards-including the PEN/Faulkner and the Orange Prize-with her debut tale of a New England mother and daughter. Now, she moves a few towns over to tell the tale of a Congregationalist minister who has lost his wife and, maybe, his faith. Tyler Caskey had always believed in his calling. He truly loved preaching, and his flock loved him. All this changed when his vibrant young wife died, leaving him with two little girls and an existential crisis. As Tyler falters, the affection and admiration he once inspired goes sour, and, as his congregation turns on him, Strout reveals the many dark and unhappy secrets of West Annett in the 1950s. Most of the characters in this novel are fundamentally bewildered, and many of them are quite bitter as well. The narrator's folksy tone does nothing to enliven this dispiriting story; the overall effect is rather like listening to a slightly cantankerous maiden aunt dispensing local gossip. The only truly bright spot in this novel is Tyler's five-year-old daughter, whom Strout depicts as an imaginative and sensitive child. The reader might well long for more of her, and will undoubtedly wish that her self-absorbed father hadn't condemned her to a year of despair and neglect. When Tyler finally breaks down-he staggers from his pulpit, unable to face either the people in the pews or his own doubt and confusion-his stumble turns out to be a spiritual awakening for him and his congregation, but the redemptive ending doesn't quite make up for the gloom and spitefulness of the preceding pages. A melancholy tale of faith lostand found and an unhappy look at small-town life.
From the Publisher
“Strout’s greatly anticipated second novel . . . is an answered prayer.”Vanity Fair
 
“Superb . . . a shimmering tale of loss, faith, and human fallibility . . . You feel yourself in the hands of a master storyteller.”O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“Deeply moving . . . In one beautiful page after another, Strout captures the mysterious combinations of hope and sorrow. She sees all these wounded people with heartbreaking clarity, but she has managed to write a story that cradles them in understanding and that, somehow, seems like a foretaste of salvation.”The Washington Post
 
“This lovely second novel confirms Strout as the possessor of an irresistibly companionable, peculiarly American voice: folksy, poetic, but always as precise as a shadow on a brilliant winter day.”The Atlantic Monthly
 
“Graceful and moving . . . The pacing of Strout’s deeply felt fiction about the distance between parents and children gives her work an addictive quality.”People (four stars)

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781588365118
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/14/2006
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 72,050
  • File size: 344 KB

Meet the Author

Elizabeth  Strout
Elizabeth Strout is the author of the New York Times bestseller Olive Kitteridge, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the national bestseller Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine and New York City.

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

With the kind of reception that Elizabeth Strout's debut novel Amy and Isabelle received, one might have expected her to rush right back to her writing desk to author a follow-up while the proverbial iron was still hot. However, that is not the way that Strout works. "I wish tremendously that I was faster about all this," she recently told Bookpage.com. "But, you know, it didn't turn out to be that way." It ultimately took her about seven years to write Abide with Me, her sophomore effort, and the amount of time she put into crafting the novel is apparent on every page.

The multitudinous hours that went into writing Abide with Me are not anything new to Elizabeth Strout. She took any equally measured number of years to writer her debut, which she developed out of a short story. "It took me around three years to ‘clear my throat' for this book," she told Bookreporter.com at the time of the release of Amy and Isabelle. "During much of that time Amy and Isabelle remained a story. Once I got down to actually writing it as a novel it took another six or seven years." However, the pay off for the time she spent writing this humorous, expertly rendered tale of the troubled relationship between a mother and her daughter was substantial. Amy and Isabelle received nearly unanimous praise, lauded by Mademoiselle, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Time Magazine, People Magazine, and Publishers Weekly, to name just a few. The novel also nabbed nominations for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Orange Prize for Fiction, and was the subject of a 2001 made-for-television movie starring Elizabeth Shue.

So, what kept Strout from completing her second novel sooner? Perhaps it was her unorthodox writing methods. "I try to get in three or four hours (of writing per day)," she explains, "and I put off having lunch for as long as I can because having lunch seems to change the energy flow. If I'm lucky, I'll get through till one o'clock. And then I throw everything out. And that's a morning's work."

While Strout may be indulging in a little good-natured, comical leg-pulling, she did not write Abide with Me to elicit giggles from her readers. This somber piece introduces Tyler Caskey, a minister in a small New England community whose mounting personal doubts following a tragedy cause the community that he serves to develop their own doubts about his ability to guide them spiritually.

While Abide with Me stands in contrast to the comparatively humorous Amy and Isabelle, it was not Strout's intention to render a serious exploration of theology or religion. She views the book as more of a character study. "It is the story of a minister," she explains. "I was interested in writing about a religious man who is genuine in his religiosity and who gets confronted with such sadness so abruptly that he loses himself. Not his faith, but his faith in himself."

With the admiration already pouring in for Abide with Me, Strout may very well have another bestseller on her hands. Publishers Weekly has called this striking novel "a harrowing meditation of exile on Main Street," while Booklist suggested that "Readers who enjoyed...Amy and Isabelle... 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."

Such praise may be of little interest to Strout, who once told Bookreporter.com, "When I finish a piece, I put it behind me and look to my future work." But considering her leisurely work methods, it may be several years before her readers get their hands on her any of her future work -- not that Strout needs to worry about whether or not her fans will forget her. As long as she continues producing work as rich and compelling as Amy and Isabelle and Abide with Me, she can take all the time she needs.

Update:
In 2009 Strout was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Olive Kitteridge, a collection of connected short stories about a woman and her immediate family and friends on the coast of Maine.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Strout:

"My first job was when I was about 12, cleaning houses in the afternoons for different elderly women in town. I hated it. I would be so bored scrubbing at some kitchen tile, that my mind would finally float all over the place, to the beach, to a friend's house...all this happened in my mind as I scrubbed those tiles, so it was certainly good for my imagination. But I did hate it."

"Without a doubt my mother was an inspiration for my writing. This is true in many ways, but mostly because she is a wonderful storyteller, without even knowing it. I would listen, as a child, when some friend of hers came to visit, and they would gossip about the different people they knew. My mother had the most fascinating stories about people's families, murderers, mental illnesses, babies abandoned, and she delivered it all in a matter-of-fact way that was terribly compelling. It made me believe that there was nothing more interesting than the lives of people, their real hidden lives, and this of course can lead one down the path of becoming a fiction writer."

"Later, in college, one of my favorite things was to go into town and sit at the counter at Woolworth's (so tragic to have them gone!) and listen to people talking; the waitresses and the customers -- I loved it. I still love to eavesdrop, but mostly I like the idea of being around people who are right in the middle of their lives, revealing certain details to each other -- leaving the rest for me to make up."

"I love theater. I love sitting in an audience and having the actors right there, playing out what it means to be a human being. There is something about the actual relationship that is going on between the audience and the actors that I just love. I love seeing the sets and costumes, the decisions that have been made about the staging...it's a place for the eye and the ear to be fully involved. I have always loved theater."

"I also like cell phones. What I mean by that is I hear many people complain about cell phones; they can't go anywhere without hearing someone on a cell phone, etc. But I love that chance to hear half a conversation, even if the person is just saying, ‘Hi honey, I'll be home in ten minutes, do you want me to bring some milk?' And I'm also grateful to have a cell phone, just to know it's there if I need it when I'm out and about. So I'm a cell phone fan."

"I don't especially like to travel, not the way many people do. I know many people that love to go to far-off and different places, and I've never been like that. I seem to get homesick as quickly as a child. I may like being in some new place for a few days, but then I want to go home and return to my routine and my familiar corner stores. I am a real creature of habit, without a doubt."

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    1. Hometown:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 6, 1956
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portland, Maine
    1. Education:
      B.A., Bates College, 1977; J.D., Syracuse College of Law, 1982
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

ONE

Oh, it would be years ago now, but at one time a minister lived with his small daughter in a town up north near the Sabbanock River, up where the river is narrow and the winters used to be especially long. The minister’s name was Tyler Caskey, and for quite some while his story was told in towns up and down the river, and as far over as the coast, until it emerged with enough variations so as to lose its original punch, and just the passing of time, of course, will affect the vigor of these things. But there are a few people still living in the town of West Annett who are said to remember quite clearly the events that took place during the wintry, final months of 1959. And if you inquire with enough patience and restraint of curiosity, you can probably get them to tell you what it is they claim to know, although its accuracy might be something you’d have to sort out on your own.

We do know the Reverend Tyler Caskey had two daughters at the time, but the littler one, really just a toddler then, lived with Tyler’s mother a few hours away, farther down the river in a town called Shirley Falls, where the river got wide and the roadways and buildings more frequent and substantial, things taking on a more serious tone than what you might find up near the town of West Annett. Up there, you could drive for miles—and still can—on twisting back roads, not passing by anything more than the occasional farmhouse, acres of fields and woods all around. In one of these farmhouses, the minister and his little girl Katherine lived.

The place was at least a hundred years old, built and farmed for decades by the family of Joshua Locke. But by the end of the Depression, when the farmers had no money to pay for hired hands, the farm had fallen into disrepair. Their blacksmith business, started before the First World War, also dwindled away to nothing. Eventually the house was occupied, and remained so for years, by the sole inheritor, Carl Locke, a man who seldom came into town, and who, when called upon to pull open his door, did so holding a rifle. But in the end he had left the entire place—house, barn, and a few acres of fields—to the Congregational church, even though no one seemed to remember him being inside the church more than twice in his life.

At any rate, West Annett, even containing as it did the three white buildings of Annett Academy, was a fairly small town; its church coffers were small as well. When Reverend Smith, the minister who had been there for years and years, finally got around to retiring, hauling his deaf wife with him off to South Carolina, where apparently some nephew waited to look after their needs, the church board waved them good-bye with a tepid farewell, then turned around enthusiastically and made a very nice real estate deal. The parsonage on Main Street was sold to the local dentist, and the new minister would be housed at the Locke place, out there on Stepping Stone Road.

The Pulpit Committee had made their recommendation of Tyler Caskey with this in mind, counting on his youth, his big-boned, agreeable nature, and the discomfort he had shown right away in discussing matters of money, to prevent him from complaining about being housed in a field two miles from town; and on all these points they were right. The minister, in the six years he had lived there now, had never once complained, and except for permission to paint the living room and dining room pink, had never asked the church for anything.

Which is partly why the house remained a bit ramshackle, inside and out. It had a broken porch railing and tilting front steps. But it offered those pleasing lines you find in old houses sometimes; a tall two-story, with generous windows and a nice slope to the roof. And if you studied the place for a moment—the southern exposure it got on the side, the way the mudroom faced north—you realized the people who built it years before had possessed a fine sense of what they were doing; there was a symmetry here that was unadorned, kind to the eye.

So begin with a day in early October, when it’s easy to think of the sun shining hard, the fields surrounding the minister’s house brown and gold, the trees on the hills sparkling a yellowy-red. There was—there always is—plenty to worry about. The Russians had sent up their Sputnik satellites two years before—one whirling around right now with that poor dead dog inside—and were said to be spying on us from outer space, as well as right here in our own country. Nikita Khrushchev, squatty and remarkably unattractive, had even arrived a couple of weeks before for a visit to America, whether people liked it or not—and many did not; they were afraid he’d be killed before getting home, and then what horrors might ensue! Experts, whoever they were, and however they did it, had determined that a guided missile from Moscow to New York would fall within 7.3 miles of its target, and while it was a comfort to live outside this radius, there were three families in West Annett who had bomb shelters in their backyards anyway, because after all, you never knew.

Still: This happened to be the first year in many where countrywide church membership had not increased at a greater rate than the general population, and that, if you thought about it, had to mean something. Possibly it meant people were not panicking. Possibly it meant people wanted to believe, and were apparently believing—particularly here in the northern reaches of New England, where the same people had lived for years, not many communists among them (although there were a few)—that after half a century of colossal human horror, the world really could perhaps be finally decent, and safe, and good.

And today—the one we’ve chosen to start with—was lovely in its sunny brightness, the tops of those distant trees a brave and brilliant yellowy-red. Even keeping in mind how this kind of autumn day can be an awful thing, harsh and sharp as broken glass, the sky so blue it could break down the middle, the day was perfectly beautiful, too. The kind of day where you could easily imagine the tall minister out for a walk, thinking, I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills. It had, in fact, been Reverend Caskey’s habit that fall to take a morning walk down Stepping Stone Road, then turn back up around Ringrose Pond, and there were some mornings when he continued on into town, headed to his study in the basement of the church, waving to people along the way who tapped their horns, or stopping to talk to a car that pulled over, leaning his large body down to peer into the window, smiling, nodding, his hand lingering on the car door until the window was rolled up, a wave good-bye.

But not this morning.

This morning the man was sitting in his study at home, tapping a pen against the top of his desk. Right after breakfast, he had received a telephone call from his daughter’s school. His daughter’s teacher was a young woman named Mrs. Ingersoll, and she had asked the minister in a remarkably clear voice—though it was somewhat too high-pitched for his taste—if he would come to school in the late afternoon to discuss Katherine’s behavior.

“Is there a problem?” the minister had said. And during the pause that followed, he said, “I’ll come in, of course,” standing up, holding the black telephone while he looked around the room as though something had been misplaced. “Thank you for calling,” he added. “If there’s any kind of problem, of course I want to know.”

A small, stinging pain below his collarbone arrived, and, placing his hand over it, the man had the odd momentary sense of someone about to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Then for some minutes he walked back and forth in front of his desk, his fingers tapping his mouth. Nobody, of course, wants to start a morning this way, but it was especially true for Reverend Caskey, who had suffered his share of recent sorrows, and while people were aware of this, the man was really far more worn down than anyone knew.

the minister’s study in the old farmhouse had been for many years the bedroom of Carl Locke. It was a large room on the first floor, with a view of what must have been, at one time, a very nice side garden. An old birdbath still stood in the center of a circular design of now mostly broken bricks, and vines grew over a tilting trellis, beyond which could be seen part of a meadow and an old stone wall that wobbled its way out of sight.

While Tyler Caskey had heard stories of the cantankerous and, some said, filthy old man who had lived here before him, while his wife had even complained for months when they first moved in that she could, in this room on a warm day, detect the smell of urine, the truth is that Tyler liked the room very much. He liked the view; he’d even come to feel some affinity to the old man himself. And now Tyler thought he wouldn’t go for his morning walk; he’d sit right here where another fellow had struggled apparently with righteousness, and probably loneliness, too.

There was a sermon to prepare. There always was; and the one for this Sunday the minister was going to call “On the Perils of Personal Vanity.” A tricky topic, requiring discretion—what specifics would he use?—particularly as he was hoping with its teaching to head off a crisis that loomed on the ecclesiastical horizon here in West Annett regarding the purchase of a new organ. You can be sure that in a small town where there is only one church, the decision as to whether or not that church needs a new organ can take on some significance; the organist, Doris Austin, was ready to view any opposition to the purchase as an assault upon her character—a stance irritating to those who had a natural hesitancy toward any change. So with not much else to occupy itself at the time, the town was on the verge of being occupied by this. Reverend Caskey was opposed to the organ, but said nothing publicly, only tried through his preaching to make people think.

Last week had been World Communion Sunday, and the minister had emphasized this point to his congregation right before the special offering. They were Christians in communion with the world. As was tradition, on the Friday before World Communion Sunday, a noontime service of the Ladies’ Aid Benevolent Society had been held, and that’s when the minister had been hoping to speak on the Perils of Personal Vanity, guiding this group of women—responsible for raising much of the church’s money—away from any frivolous expenditures. (Jane Watson wanted a new set of linen tablecloths for coffee hour.) But he’d not been able to gather his thoughts, and for Tyler, who used to like to picture himself, metaphorically speaking, as taking his listeners gently by the scruff of their white New England necks—Listen while I tell you—his Friday performance had been disappointing; he’d provided only general words of praise, for hard work, money raised.

Ora Kendall, whose droll voice always struck Tyler as being at odds with her small face and wild black hair, had called an hour after the service to give him a report, as she was apt to do. “Two things, Tyler. Alison doesn’t like you quoting Catholic saints.”

“Well,” Tyler said easily, “I guess I won’t worry about that.”

“Second thing,” said Ora. “Doris wants that new organ even more than she wants to divorce Charlie and marry you.”

“The organ business, Ora—that’s the board’s decision.”

Ora made a ruminative sound. “Don’t be a nitwit, Tyler. If you showed any enthusiasm for it, the board would say yes in a second. She thinks you ought to do that because she’s special.”

“Everyone is special.”

“Yuh. That’s why you’re a minister and I’m not.”

This morning Tyler Caskey was trying again to compose some lines about vanity. He had jotted down notes from 12 Ecclesiastes on the apparent meaninglessness of life when viewed from the human perspective “under the sun.” “Under the sun, all is vanity and vexation of spirit,” he had written. He tapped the pen, and did not write down the business of viewing from “above the sun,” which would show life to be a gift from the hand of God. No, he just sat, staring out the window of the room.

His eyes, wide and gazing, did not take in the birdbath, or the stone wall, or anything at all; he was just staring into space with his blue eyes. Little wispy thises and thats were floating by the edge of his memory—the poster that had hung in his childhood bedroom with the words a good boy never talks back, picnic tables in the Applebys’ field, where the bean-hole suppers used to be held, the maroon drapes in the living room of the house where his mother still lived, now with the baby, Jeannie—and here his mind hovered: the proprietary nature of his mother’s large hands as she guided the child’s little shoulders through the living room.

The minister looked down at the pen he was holding. “The best in a difficult situation” is how he had phrased it at first, but it

didn’t have to be phrased anymore. Everyone knew where the baby was, and no one, to his knowledge, frowned on the arrangement. And in fact, no one really did. Fathers were not, at that time, expected to raise small babies alone, particularly where there was so little money, and while the Ladies’ Aid had supplied him with the light housekeeping duties of Mrs. Connie Hatch (she was paid pennies), his congregation understood the baby was better off for the time being with her Grandmother Caskey—who had never, by the way, offered to take in little Katherine, too.

No, Katherine was his.

Cross to bear—words that shot through his mind now, and made him grimace, for she was not his cross to bear. She was his gift from God.

He sat up straight and tried to picture himself talking with the young teacher, how he would listen earnestly, hands clasping his knees. But his cuffs were frayed. How could he not have noticed? Examining the cuffs more closely, he realized the shirt was simply old, had reached the point where his wife would have taken it for herself, cutting the sleeves off midway and wearing it with her bright pink ballet tights that had no feet.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Do you think small-town life is that different from city life?

2. What do you think the “voice” of this novel is telling you, besides what it says? That is, what kind of tone does it set–what kind of character (not the author) might be telling you this story?

3. Pick out some of the passages about nature in the first part of the book and see if you can discern the author’s implicit attitude toward the New England landscape and toward nature in general.

4. What does the state of Tyler’s house at the beginning of the book say about him and his family? Are they different by the end?

5. This book raises the question of whether a father’s parenthood is necessarily different from a mother’s–a question that concerns us to this day. What do you think about this controversial topic?

6. Why do you think Tyler’s daughter, Katherine, stops speaking after her mother’s death? When and why does she find her voice again?

7. This book is set during the height of the Cold War. Do you think the era plays an important role in the story, or is it just a backdrop?

8. What are Tyler’s strengths and what are his weaknesses? How do they affect his ability to perform his role in the community?

9. The role of the clergy in small communities during the fifties is presented vividly through the story of Tyler Caskey. Do you think the clergy’s role has changed over time in these places and in general?

10. Whether you are religious or not, how did you respond to Tyler Caskey’s intense involvement with matters of faith and belief?

11. In some ways, Abide with Me is about class distinctions, even in this egalitarian community. How conscious were you of this aspect of the book as you read it?

12. Find examples where the weather serves as a metaphorical backdrop for Tyler’s story, and explain.

13. The novel uses domestic interiors, architecture, and lighting to complement its scenes and themes. Can you give some examples of this?

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2012

    A most amazing book! Loved it from beginning to end.

    Elizabeth Strout is an author that has written only three books and I can't wait until she writes her fourth. "Abide with Me" is full of characters that exhibit human qualities that are both good and bad. I loved every page and was sad to see it end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2009

    Rainy Day Read

    If you have a few hours to invest in the story, you will find enough to keep you busy for a weekend at the beach.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2008

    First Read For This Author

    I kept reading this book expecting everything to come together in a neat little bow in the end. I thought the entire book was disjointed and the ending was such a let down. Too much was left hanging.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2006

    Loved it just as much as her first book

    I just love the way Elizabeth Strout writes. The way she constructs sentences, the way she describes things, it's all just beautiful. I loved Amy & Isabelle and was the slightest bit hesitant to read Abide with Me b/c I am Jewish and feared I wouldn't be able to relate to it, but I'm so glad I did decide to read it. I didn't want it to end I wanted to read on and on about these people and what happened to their lives.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2006

    One of the best I've read recently

    I had tears streaming down my cheeks by the end. I didn't find it slow-paced at all. I thought her characterizations were wonderful. I had wonderful visual images of everyone. It's ultimately very uplifting in its message of love and acceptance. My favorite line in the book is when Tyler responds to Connie's remark about coming from a family of sinners: 'Oh, Connie - we all do.' It has some similarities to Amy and Isabelle. I love how she shows that everyone is imperfect, everyone is a sinner, yet we're all capable and deserving of both kindness and forgiveness.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2006

    My New Favorite Author

    I began to read this book reluctantly, fearing it would be too 'religious' and the characters not at all realistic. I was so wrong! Almost immediately I was drawn into the book by Strout's compellingly graceful style. Then I became enthralled with each of the characters, who were so fully developed and engaging. Tyler struggled with human flaws as a 'man of the cloth' and Lauren was decidedly not a stereotypical minister's wife. They and all the other characters seemed totally human and real. This book is among the very best I've ever read, and I now look forward to reading her first novel, Amy and Isabelle.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2013

    Good book

    Interesting story

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2012

    An all-time favorite

    Amazing story of human frailty and the healing power of forgiveness.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2012

    Good read

    A little slow, but gets going.

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  • Posted June 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Not sure what to say about this one

    I liked this book, though I found myself feeling frustrated with Tyler throughout the entire thing. I kept thinking that I should have been feeling more sympathetic towards him than I actually did. I suppose it was difficult to accept how disconnected he seemed from his daughter, especially since she needed him so much.

    I think the most distracting thing, though, was the way his wife's character seemed to change as the novel progressed, and not in a good way. She first came across as strong-willed and interesting. Later, she seemed to be nothing more than a shallow spendthrift and petty thief. It was odd.

    Still worth reading, though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2009

    I like Abide with Me even more than Olive Kitteridge

    One of my favorite novels, Abide With Me has characters I still think about. More important, it asks questions about faith, religion, community and more and comes up with original answers that transcend cliche. Corny as it sounds, Abide with Me lifts the reader in the same way the hymn of the title might.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2008

    Pregnant and reading

    i liked this book .... it did start out slow but then it gets to the point where you want to know more about Tylers wife and how sweet it is that he protects his daughter from being an outcast. It was hard to put down after about the third chapter.I also liked how Tyler may have been a minister but after the death of his wife he finds himself back trying to find the god he onced believed in

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2008

    Okay, but no Amy & Isabelle

    My expectations were high because I loved Amy & Isabelle so much. The book was a little slow, and the resolution was not satisfactory. Very average read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2007

    not all the great

    The book was slow and hard to get through. The last two chapter were the only ones that seemed to move and a decent pace.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2007

    Not the best.

    I found the book to be an easy read but disappointing slow with no decent resolution. Characters pop in and out of the story without an explanation as to why they are their in the first place. Tyler's depression places the reader in the unique position of wanting to jump into the book and slapping some sense into him. Parts of the book seem to be written to be purposely vague. The ending attempts to wrap up the whole story but by the time the reader finishes the book it becomes not much more than an easy attempt to add some sense of closure to a story with too many holes. The author's attempt to explain the book offered no insight and left me wondering exactly what she was talking about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2006

    WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT

    I loved Amy & Isabelle and decided to read this one. It was boring and droll. The book just plodded along with nothing exciting going on. The charaters weren't interesting enough for me to finish it and dropped the book at page 60.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2006

    A Novel Of Rare Quality

    From the first page I found myself riveted by the extraordinary beauty of the world Elizabeth Strout conveys in ABIDE WITH ME. It is so carefully and precisely seen and so eloquently written, the characters are so true and vivid, that it just blew me away. There were times I had to put the book down because I found Katherine, the little girl's, plight too upsetting for a moment, or Tyler, the minister's, grief too painful. Then again, I couldn't stop reading it. This novel is right up there with AMY AND ISABEL and beyond.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews

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