11. My Name is Lucy Barton

“There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in the hospital for almost nine weeks.”

My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout

It’s probably not a huge surprise that I loved this book - I was a huge fan of both Amy and Isabelle and The Burgess Boys (no I haven’t read Olive Kitteridge, yes, I need to remedy that ASAP).  But yes, I loved this book.  In a lean 191 pages the book manges to explore relationships between mothers and children, to talk about growing up in poverty and what that can do to a person - even if they manage to escape it, abuse, love, loss - you know, just EVERYTHING. I’m not usually a person for spare prose - I’m ambivalent about Hemingway, I like my sweeping family sagas, but I was just blown away by how much Strout was able to pack into this small book - how real, and full and lived-in it felt, despite the lean prose.  It’s the kind of book I almost wanted to go back and immediately re-read, to see how much more I could get out of the beginning, knowing what I knew at the end.  I didn’t do that, because I’m a flibbertigibbet, but I am certain that if I did re-read the book, I would learn even more about the characters and my experience of it would be even deeper.  But lord, if I did that, I’d never get through my TBR pile - so screw the greater understanding of remarkable literature!

Anyway.  The book is about Lucy Barton, a young mother and aspiring writer living in New York.  A number of years ago she was hospitalized for quite a long while, and while she was recovering her mother, whom she had not spoken too for many years, came to visit and sit with her.  As they chat we slowly learn about them, and their past, and Lucy and her current life, and it’s so well done.  Because this isn’t two great talkers unspooling their tales, but rather two reticient people, with a gulf between them, slowly chit chatting.  But what they say, and don’t say is the story.  And it’s a grand one.  What can I say? Read it.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017