This is a remarkable interweaving of the stories underlying My Name is Lucy Barton – What all went on in that hometown of Lucy’s – to the people Lucy and her mother gossip about? – These are those stories, each almost a standalone but interwoven as stories in a small town are, and My Name is Lucy Barton comes even more meaningful if you get the gist of the relationships between the characters. NPR’s Helen McAlprin calls it a “novel-in-stories.”
Anything is Possible
by Elizabeth Strout
rating – 9.25 / contemporary fiction
Welcome to Amgash, Illinois, the small rural home town of Lucy Barton, the protagonist of “My Name is Lucy Barton.” She’s now an acclaimed author from New York City and has written a memoir. It’s selling pretty well in town, but the memoir is not Strout’s tale. What she tells us is the stories of the other people involved, the sisters and brother, the cousins, the neighbor and his wife, the Pretty Nicely Girls, and many others.
These folks gossip a lot, they do whatever they can to make themselves feel better about who they are and their place in society. But they also have secrets which are mostly about sex but also concern love and abuse and money and so on. Some of them can simply not express their feelings – of love, of loneliness, of rage. Other characters go on and on. They’re so deeply human!
Strout writes beautifully, spinning her words into webs of understanding with themes which are revealed at all levels of society from the rich and famous to the poorest and most desolate, young and old, male and female.