My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Published January 12, 2016 by Random House
Genre: Contemporary/Literary Fiction
Lucy Barton is in the hospital for what was supposed to be a very simple procedure. Complications arise, and she is stuck in the hospital longer than anticipated. One day she wakes up and her mother is in her hospital room. Lucy and her mother do not have the strongest bond, but to Lucy the need for that bond is strong. They discuss their past and the people that were involved over the next few days. Lucy is a mother to two beautiful daughters and a wife to a man named William. Her marriage is very mediocre and she is aspiring to be a writer. The discussions with her mother help her to release all of the tension in every aspect of her life. She can finally come to terms with all of it.
Characters | Lucy is a fantastic, humble, unsure main character. She understands that she isn’t perfect and neither is her life. She doesn’t have a close bond with her parents, especially her mother, and her marriage isn’t doing so hot. She’s not happy, but she doesn’t quite know what to do about it. She recalls all of her memories, and she thinks about all of the people she has come in contact with along the way. She delves into what made them who they were. She shares what she thinks, but she also explains to the reader that she may not have recalled it correctly. She knows she can’t speak for everyone else, and Strout really gives the reader that sense of instability.
Lucy’s mother was a tough character to connect with. It is from Lucy’s point of view, so I’m sure that’s the reason why. Sometimes you felt like she was an amazing woman, and other times you wanted to just kick her out of the story. You want to tell Lucy that it’ll be okay. You’ll figure it out. There is a lot more to life than what you have experienced.
Story | Lucy and her family were very poor. Kids would tease her, and material items, or the lack thereof, were always brought up. The clothes she wore were never good enough. They ate molasses on bread almost every night. Her father worked on farm equipment. She has a brother and sister who are very odd. There was so much interesting backstory to the characters, and it added this new height to the story overall. It lifted it up from being just a mother and daughter bonding in a hospital. One part of this novel almost made me cry. Not having a close bond with my mother is probably my worst nightmare. I can only sympathize with Lucy. It’s heartbreaking!
Critique: The ending was underwhelming. I wanted something more, and I cannot pinpoint what that is. I would give this a 4.5 rating, but I have given up the half star ratings. It’s just easier for everyone.
Writing | Strout’s writing is simple, smart, and honest. I can understand why she is a Pulitzer Prize-Winning author. I could probably read everything she has written, and everything she will write from here on out. Here are some quotes that I really enjoyed:
“This must be the way most of us maneuver through the world, half knowing, half not, visited by memories that can’t possibly be true. But when I see others walking with confidence down the sidewalk, as though they are free completely from terror, I realize I don’t know how others are. So much of life seems speculation.”
“One can be ready to give up the children one always wanted, one can be ready to withstand remarks about one’s past, or one’s clothes, but then-a tiny remark and the soul deflates and says: Oh.”
“I have learned this: A person gets tired. The mind or the soul or whatever word we have for whatever is not just the body gets tired, and this, I have decided, is-usually, mostly-nature helping us. I was getting tired.”
“This is a story about a mother who loves her daughter. Imperfectly. Because we all love imperfectly. But if you find yourself protecting anyone as you write this piece, remember this: You’re not doing it right.”
I do really recommend this book. Strout’s writing is commendable. Her thoughts and her words hit you a certain way that is indescribable. Please just give it a go!
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