Left Bank brings Strout to town

Jul 29, 2014
Photo by: Leonardo Centamo Elizabeth Strout

Belfast — Continuing its 10th anniversary summer series, Left Bank Books will welcome Elizabeth Strout for a talk and signing Saturday, Aug. 9, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the First Church of Belfast, diagonally across Church Street from Left Bank Books. She will sign books immediately after her talk. The public is warmly invited to this free event, but reservations are required.

Strout is the author of four books including “Olive Kitteridge,” winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her most recent novel, “The Burgess Boys,” has received widespread national acclaim and honors. National Public Radio named it one of the best books of 2013 and the Washington Post called it one of the most notable works of fiction in 2013.

Although she now lives in New York City, Strout is pulled to write about her native state of Maine; she was born in Portland and graduated from Bates College. Many of her characters live in fictional towns that are clearly located in Maine or elsewhere in New England. Shirley Falls (“a gossip-ridden mill town”) appears in Strout’s debut novel “Amy And Isabelle” (1998),” Abide With Me” (2006) and again in “The Burgess Boys.” The tart-tongued Olive Kitteridge lives in the hardscrabble coastal town of Crosby.

In a lecture/conversation with Roger Rosenblatt last month, in which they discussed the power of place in fiction, Strout said it took her a while to understand the importance of place: “I had to live in New York for many years before I realized, ‘Oh, I actually really do come from Maine.’”

“The Burgess Boys” moves between New York City and Shirley Falls, two locales Strout obviously finds comfortable writing about. As adults living in Brooklyn, Jim Burgess is a sleek, successful corporate lawyer and Bob Burgess is a divorced Legal Aid attorney living alone in a sparsely furnished apartment. The brothers’ lives are irrevocably altered when their sister Susan, who lives in their Maine hometown, calls with news of a thoughtless but serious act committed by her teenage son Zach.

Strout said she was inspired to write “The Burgess Boys” after hearing a news report about a man who tossed a frozen pig’s head into a Lewiston storefront mosque where Somali refugees were staying in 2006. The man was charged with desecrating a house of worship and later committed suicide. Strout spent seven years researching Somali history and culture for “The Burgess Boys.”

Strout has wanted to be a writer since she was a child and credits her parents’ belief in her as crucial to her success. This will be Strout’s first appearance in Belfast.

“We tried to get her last year,” said Marsha Kaplan, one of the store’s three owners, “but she was putting a hold on almost all of her appearances then. This year, as we started to plan our months-long birthday ‘party,’ Elizabeth was at the top of our list. We wrote to her again and, this time, she said ‘Yes!’”

To reserve seats or for more information, call 338-9009 or email leftbank@myfairpoint.net. All of Strout’s novels are available at Left Bank Books, 109 Church St.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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