26 May, 2017

My name is Lucy Barton : a novel by Elizabeth Strout

“Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden inside the crevices of my mouth, reminding me.”

This is a short book, a quiet book that really packs a punch. 

Lucy Barton’s childhood was grim to say the least. The family lived in poverty, in an uncle’s garage, in a physically and culturally isolated environment, with no neighbours, television or newspapers.  She grew up socially awkward, often ostracized by other kids and without knowing how to behave in certain social situations. One of three siblings she seems not to have shared any loving relationships with them, or her parents. 

When we meet Lucy, she is recovering from an operation in hospital. Here she thinks and reflects - mostly about her childhood, her previous marriage and her present life with husband and two daughters and the circumstances which led her to become a writer. Then, her estranged mother unexpectedly comes to visit and mother and daughter try to reconnect through shared conversations that last over three days.

This is a novel about the difficulties and limitations of love: marital, platonic and most of all mother and daughterly love. Lucy’s mother was unable to protect her from their poverty and from father’s unpredictable behaviour. Still, Lucy so loves her mother and needs her love and approval. In turn, the mother can only describe her feelings for her daughter by telling stories of old acquaintances  and their imperfect lives.

As I started reading, I had a feeling that this would be an unusual but remarkable tale. In less than 200 pages, without wasting a word, Elizabeth Strout made me want to read it through in one sitting.

Author: Elizabeth Strout

Reviewed by Suneeta N, Highland Park Library

Suneeta N particularly enjoys biographies, travel stories and reading authors from around the world. She loves a good discussion and believes that everybody has a story worth telling.

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