My Name is Lucy Barton (review)

My Name is Lucy Barton (NetGalley)
Elizabeth Strout
Random House

This thing we call ‘family’–those little rag tag bands of humans who make their way through life bumping into each other and bouncing off again, sometimes laughing, but often in tears–becomes more mysterious to me the older I get. Whenever I think I have family and my place in it figured out, Life tosses in a storm, and I’m trying to stay moored against its relentless push and pull.my name is lucy barton

Lucy Barton had a hell of a childhood. Poverty, mental illness, abuse–yet she’s managed (she thinks) to put it behind her and recreate a family in her own image. One with a stable husband, a house in a respectable neighborhood, and two delightful little girls. She’s even a budding writer. But when she spends several months in the hospital with a life-threatening infection, it’s just Lucy, the hospital bed, and the four walls of her room. It’s then that the memories, uninvited, try to wedge their way in. And when her mother comes to visit (for the first time in a dozen years, mind you), Lucy realizes that in order to heal, she must somehow reconcile her past with the present.

One of my favorite writers Ann Tyler, writes about the chaos of family life with honesty and open-hearted acceptance of its flaws. Elizabeth Strout looks at family with the same honesty, but also with painful tenderness. When I read Olive Kitteridge, I wasn’t exactly a fan–not because of the writing, which is lovely and evocative–but because Olive was just so … unlikable, I thought. I gave Strout another go with The Burgess Boys and wasn’t disappointed.

But My Name is Lucy Barton left me wanting  much more from this writer whose understanding of family is a heartbeat away from my own.

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