Elizabeth Strout, author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, has recently published a new novel: My Name is Lucy Barton. Just before starting My Name is Lucy Barton, I read a Facebook post by another favorite author, Kelly Corrigan (The Middle Place, Glitter and Glue), about her interview with Elizabeth Strout.
I had an interesting conversation last night with Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout, whose new book rivals her most famous, Olive Kitteridge, for excellence. The thing we got to, that I so wholeheartedly believe, is that fiction is more true than just about anything else. I have profound friendships that involve deep conversation but still, there are things we just do not discuss… the terrible details of marital strife, the big holes in us that we pretend aren’t there, all our contradictions, only some of which we can see, our sex lives, our odd attractions and repulsions. Liz made the room laugh by saying, “Right! The things we lie to our therapists about!” I’ve wondered my whole life why fiction exists and persists across time and culture. And now I feel like I know: because we can be honest there, we can reveal ourselves, see one another, fully and finally.
The story: Lucy Barton, aspiring author, mother of 2 young children, wife, is in the hospital for a lengthy stay. She is recovering from an appendectomy whose complications keep her there for 9 weeks. At the request of husband, Lucy’s estranged mother comes to visit her for 5 days. During this time, Lucy shares memories from different parts of her life, trying to make sense of different relationships-lovers, her doctor, old friends, and especially the relationship with her mother. Some of these have feedback from her mom, and some are more interior, for Lucy and the reader alone. I found I was moved more so by moments of genuine love and kindness than by her hurts, but both are authentically expressed.
Lucy is a quick read, but one you can savor. It is loving and honest, but not bitter. There are passages I wanted to tab because they make so much sense, because they reflect what is most true. My Name is Lucy Barton is definitely on my list of books I am glad I read! What did you think?