Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Elizabeth Strout

By Lynn Willoughby

My Name is Lucy Barton ~ Elizabeth Strout

Strout writes with a lack of sentimentality and this book is no exception. “Lucy’s childhood is steeped not just in financial hardship, but in cultural and emotional deprivation. Lucy’s childhood is devoid of books, magazines and neighbours.”
Don’t be discouraged – this is a powerful novel and I enjoyed it a lot. Lucy says “Loneliness was the first flavour I tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden in the crevices of my mouth, reminding me… I will write and people will not feel so alone.”
Like “Olive Kitteridge”, this is a no nonsense story, with no softening o the edges. But it weaves the compassion, wisdom and insight of the years into a true family tapestry. Not all of life is good. There are no fairy tale endings. While Lucy struggles to uncover the truth about her life we often see it first and it can be heartbreaking and beautiful. The world is harsh, but it is also filled with small kindnesses.
There is not a lot of action in this book. Instead it is driven by Lucy’s voice – the love, the loss, the guilt, “moments of grace and understanding, tempered with moments of brutality and disappointment.” It is what isn’t said that gets you – the regret, the tenderness, the acceptance.
I like Strout’s writing, and this is no exception.

 

  • Olive Kitterige
  • The Burgess Boys

Anything is Possible ~ Elizabeth Strout

This newest novel by Strout I had on pre-order. And like her other writing it did not disappoint. It draws on many of the characters from “My Name is Lucy Barton”. It almost read like a series of short stories but there is always a connection and “Anything is Possible”.
This novel is rich and complex with strong characters. It is beautifully written and well constructed. It is familiar because of some of the characters but those same people can probably be found in any small town, and the themes of love, loss and hope are universal. But the difficulties of life are what shape the characters and what deepens their compassion. Because everyone is so ordinary it makes the story line extraordinary.
There is the school janitor’s story, a troubled mother and adult daughter relationship, the owner of a bed and breakfast with a past, the school counsellor, the seamstress. The stories tell of the past and the present. “Strout has a fantastic understanding of the sorrows, fears, secrets and the many ambiguities that make up the human condition.” These are particular stories where each one conveys a message about life and I really liked the book.

Who Knew?

Roughly 40% of all food in the USA goes uneaten, and yet one in seven American households doesn’t have a regular and reliable source of food.

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