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My Name Is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout


Overview -
A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. Her bestselling novels, including "Olive Kitteridge "and" The Burgess Boys, "have illuminated our most tender relationships. Now, in "My Name Is Lucy Barton, "this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all the one between mother and daughter.
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Overview


A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. Her bestselling novels, including "Olive Kitteridge "and" The Burgess Boys, "have illuminated our most tender relationships. Now, in "My Name Is Lucy Barton, "this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all the one between mother and daughter.
Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.
Praise for Elizabeth Strout
Strout has a magnificent gift for humanizing characters. " San Francisco Chronicle"
What truly makes Strout exceptional . . . is the perfect balance she achieves between the tides of story and depths of feeling. " Chicago Tribune"
Strout] constructs her stories with rich irony and moments of genuine surprise and intense emotion. " USA Today"
Strout animates the ordinary with an astonishing force. " The New Yorker"
Strout s] themes are how incompletely we know one another, how desperately hard every person in the world is] working to get what they need, and the redemptive power in little things a shared memory, a shock of tulips. "People""

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781400067695
  • ISBN-10: 1400067693
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Publish Date: January 2016
  • Page Count: 208

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-10-19
  • Reviewer: Staff

Despite its slim length, Strouts (The Burgess Boys) tender and moving novel should be read slowly, to savor the depths beneath what at first seems a simple story of a mother-daughter reconciliation. Lucy Barton is shocked when her mother, from whom shes been estranged for years, flies from tiny Amgash, Ill., to be at Lucys hospital bedside in New York. Convalescing from a postsurgery infection, Lucy is tentative about making conversation, gently inquiring about people back home while avoiding the real reason why theres been no contact with her parents. Strout develops the story in short chapters in which the reader intuits the emotional complexity of Lucys life as she reveals long-buried memories of an isolated, profoundly impoverished childhood and the sexual secrets, the knowledge of darkness, that shrouded her life. Though her mother calls her Wizzle, an endearing childhood name that implies warmth and closeness, she is unable to tell Lucy that she loves her. Running counter to the memories of her harsh, stoic upbringing is Lucys anguish at missing her own two daughters, waiting for her at home. Lucy also reflects on other cruelties of life in New York City, specifically the scourge of AIDS (the setting is the 1980s) and the underlying troubles of her marriage. Her narrative voice is restrained yet expressive. This masterly novels message, made clear in the moving denouement, is that sometimes in order to express love, one has to forgive. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Literary Agency. (Jan.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Mother-daughter memories

BookPage Fiction Top Pick, January 2015

It is impossible to explain fully the beautiful, haunting emotional power of Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton. Magic? Genius? Certainly much of its power arises from the mesmerizing voice of Lucy Barton, teller of this tale. And much of it comes from the details of the story she slowly unfolds. Another piece of the explanation surely lies in the gaps in Lucy’s story that we readers must bridge with our own empathy and imagination. Still, My Name Is Lucy Barton is much larger and far more resonant than the sum of these parts.

The story begins with Lucy, now a published fiction writer, remembering a time, 20 or more years ago, when she was felled by an undiagnosable disease, a sort of visitation of sickness, and ended up in a New York City hospital for a prolonged stay. She was anguished to be separated from her two young daughters and her somewhat distant husband. Then, her mother, whom Lucy had not spoken to in years, came from Illinois to stay with her at the hospital. Their loving, gossipy conversations evoke conflicting emotions and vivid, if often understated, memories in Lucy about her and her siblings growing up in abject poverty, in a household rife with mental illness and abuse. The lifelong effects of that emotional and economic impoverishment, even for Lucy, the successful sibling, infuse her story in unexpected ways.

Toward the end of the book, as Lucy begins to write about the visit from her mother and her childhood memories, a writing teacher tells her: “People will go after you for combining poverty and abuse. Such a stupid word, ‘abuse,’ such a conventional, stupid word. . . . This is a story about love.”

My Name Is Lucy Barton is indeed about love, or really, the complexity of misshapen familial love. It is also a story of lasting emotional damage and resilience, and a writer’s commitment to the truth. The novel is also full of keen observations about how childhood travels forward into adulthood. Strout, who won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge, has written a profound novel about the human experience that will stay with a reader for a long, long time.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
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