Reviews – My Name is Lucy Barton & Anything is Possible

Elizabeth Strout – 2016 / 2017 Penguin Random House

Unfortunately I read these back to front, so Anything is Possible then sometime later My Name is Lucy Barton.  Generally I really like Elizabeth Strout’s writing, it is beautiful and frank, allowing the reader to feel they are listening to a conversation at times, with all its nuances.

From the cover of My Name is Lucy Barton

‘Writing of this quality comes from a commitment to listening, from a perfect attunement to the human condition, from an attention to reality so exact that it goes beyond a skill and becomes a virtue.’  Hilary Mantel

I couldn’t have said it better myself…

So, My Name is Lucy Barton is told in the first person voice of Lucy Barton, looking back, specifically to a time when she was in hospital and her mother travelled from the family home in Amgash, Illinois to New York where Lucy had moved following college to pursue a career in writing.  Lucy reflected on a tough, poverty stricken childhood where the family were ostracised for being so poor, in the narrative between her and her mother some of Lucy’s recollections are dismissed or denied, sometimes simply by Lucy not finding her voice to say what she wanted to say.  Strout captures the family roles and unconscious shifting back into those roles and following the family narrative despite adulthood, success and moving on.  Referencing some of the characters that are developed further in Anything is Possible this book builds the foundations for the latter by detailing the relationship between Lucy and her mother while more is learnt about her father and siblings and the community in the subsequent tale.

Anything is Possible tells the story of the inhabitants of rural, dusty Amgash, Illinois, where Lucy Barton grew up in abject poverty.  Now a successful author living in New York Lucy returns to visit her siblings, her parents now both deceased.  The chapters detail different characters in the town while referencing Lucy and her family and each other to enable the reader to build an overall picture of the townsfolk.  This book was beautifully written capturing the love, loss and family secrets that exist in every community.

Both books capture the loss of Lucy moving on and the rejection and envy felt by the family she left behind.  2 great reads which I think would be even better if read in the correct order.  Hard to review – I’ve done my best and I did really enjoy both and categorized as general fiction.

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