She went to law school, in Syracuse, because she was afraid that otherwise she’d end up a “fifty-eight-year-old cocktail waitress,” instead of a fiction writer.

After law school, Strout quickly decided that she didn’t want to be a lawyer after all, and that she didn’t care if she ended up an aging, unpublished cocktail waitress: at least she would have spent her time writing. (“I took myself—secretly, secretly—very seriously!” Lucy Barton says in Strout’s novel. “I knew I was a writer.”)