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Preteen daughters, Mother’s Day, and Amy and Isabelle


In the last few months I’ve heard a lot from my friends with pre-teen daughters about the HELL that is quickly becoming their household, and, I can admit, that I was feeling pretty smug. MY 5th grader wasn’t there. We had the same emotional level we’ve always had (with girls, that’s always a little elevated), not a lot extraneous yelling and screaming.

Yeah, I was smug.

Silly me.

My older daughter will be 11 in June. She’s pretty easy going, although she does usually get her way because she IS so easy going (and because she is the oldest, and has a younger sister who will do whatever she tells her to do). But, it the last week, this has changed.  Friday night she had a lacrosse game and, when she and her dad got home (I didn’t go due to work), I told her she needed to shower because:

  • she was a sweaty, smelly, stinky mess
  • she wasn’t going to have time to shower in the morning
  • (but mostly because she reeked)

BOOM!!!!! Fireworks (without the ohhing and ahhing)!! You would have thought we asked her to cut off her toe or shave her head.

In the last two days later we’ve had about 15 chances to see these fireworks. Actually, I wish there were fireworks. At least then there would be something pretty to watch. Because a nearly 11 year old girl screaming and crying, spittle flying from her  lips, daggers flying from her eyes, fire shooting from her fingertips, head spinning like The Exorcist — well, that’s not as pretty as fireworks.

The fun of it all is that dad doesn’t get it at all. He grew up with a very level-headed mother and two younger brothers. I’m pretty steady, emotionally (until I’m not) and didn’t go through tons of emotional ups and downs in my teen years (there probably were ups and downs, but I don’t remember. I’m pretty sure I was perfect and very level headed–wink wink nudge nudge). Dad and daughter are actually very much alike, but he doesn’t get her hormone-driven emotional rollercoaster because it is essentially female.  His approach is to over-reacting to her over-reactions, and then she over-reacts back. Eventually, I step in and de-escalate them both. It’s exhausting.

Today is Mother’s Day. My one wish is for a peaceful day. No crazy pre-teen meltdowns. No daughter-daughter or daddy- daughter arguments. Doesn’t seem like a such a big deal to those of non-teens, but for those of us on the rollercoaster it is a HUGE DEAL. But I am an optimist and I have my fingers crossed.  And, since it’s after 5:00 pm, we’re in the home stretch. There’s a good chance this can happen.

To that end, here’s a review about a little Mother-Daughter drama by Elizabeth Strout.


I teared up a little when I finished Elizabeth Strout’s Amy and Isabelle. I read this the first time when it first came out; at the time I was working at Barnes & Noble and read books the moment I saw the Kirkus review.  I re-read this after reading Strout’s latest novel,  The Burgess Boys, which lead me to read Olive Kitteridge. I remembered this book fondly, but thought it deserved another look. And I was right!!!

Strout’s masterful storytelling ability and wonderful characters shine through in Amy and Isabelle. The depth of the characters made me fall in love with them, and the language made them so real and lovable. The characters are brought to life, making them people you think you know. She presents them as nakedly and openly as possible, making their hurts and triumphs real and personal. 

This is the story of Isabelle Goodrow, a single mother raising a shy, beautiful daughter in the small Maine town of Shirley Falls (a town she writes of in subsequent books). Amy becomes a woman, discovering herself in the worst way a mother could ever imagine, but it takes her mother’s opening up and admitting to her life that leads to forgiveness, and both are able to move on with their lives. 

Beautifully written and stunningly real, this will go onto my favorites list.




I love to read; writing is my outlet. My blog is my way to combine the two, with a some life stories thrown in for good measure.

4 thoughts on “Preteen daughters, Mother’s Day, and Amy and Isabelle

  1. Yep. Just sent the “easy” one off to D.C. for the week. Already looking forward to that trip for the girl
    in 2 years!


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