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Saturday, January 16, 2016

(7)My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

When we first meet Lucy Barton she is in the hospital.  She is recovering from a surgery that should have been simple, but the complications have made her seriously ill.  Her husband has a fear of hospitals and visits infrequently, besides he is left to take care of their daughters.  Lucy is alone in the hospital for days and weeks.  The loneliness is just as debilitating as her illness.  Then one day, Lucy wakes up  to see her mother sitting next to her bed.  The mother she hasn't seen, let alone spoken with in years.  Lucy is relieved to see her mother and takes comfort in their easy silence and soft chatter about the home and life she left behind years ago.  Lucy grew up in abject poverty with parents that couldn't get ahead financially no matter how hard they worked.  As a child Lucy was ostracized because of their poverty.   While recovering Lucy has nothing but time to reflect on her relationship with her mother, her father, her siblings, the life she has now, the relationship she has with her husband, and her relationship with her daughters.

My Name is Lucy Barton is beautiful story  about reflection and sentiment.   Lucy is the kind of character that just captivates the reader with her uncomplicated way of storytelling.  Her simplicity is refreshing and hypnotizing.   I can understand Lucy's feelings as she sits there with her mother.  So much is left unsaid between them, and I get the feeling that Lucy feels unworthy of her mother's attention, but it doesn't matter because when Lucy needed her most, she was there. And isn't that the true definition of family?  Of love?  I found myself angry on Lucy's behalf because her husband wasn't there. And that might have been the root of their problems, but it angered me. Lucy's reflections on her childhood, on her marriage,  and on her family are likely to be recognizable by many women.   It is easy to romanticize your past and gloss over the hardships you encountered, but not Lucy.   In the end, Lucy Barton is honest with not only us, the readers, but herself and it is like a challenge to the reader to be honest with themselves.

Bottom line - My Name is Lucy Barton is a splendid novel. I think it goes without saying that anything written by Elizabeth Strout is worthy of book club consideration.