My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout

Publisher’s description:
An exquisite story of mothers and daughters from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge. 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. Her unexpected visit forces Lucy to confront the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of her life: her impoverished childhood in Amgash, Illinois, her escape to New York and her desire to become a writer, her faltering 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. In My Name Is Lucy Barton, one of America’s finest writers shows how a simple hospital visit illuminates the most tender relationship of all-the one between mother and daughter.

I liked this book very much but I’m finding it difficult to put into words just why I liked it so much. Its beautifully written. The characters are believable, the dialogue flows. It’s not a lengthy book but every sentence counts.

My Name is Lucy Barton is a work of fiction written by Elizabeth Strout. It is basically the autobiography of the ‘fictional’ Lucy Barton.

At its heart the book looks at the relationship between a mother and daughter. There is a lot of ‘remembering’ in the book, some of it heartbreaking and very poignant.

Lucy is a successful writer living in New York. The trigger for Lucy’s story would seem to be a lengthy hospital stay some years previously during which time her mother came to visit unexpectedly and stayed in Lucy’s hospital room for five nights, sleeping in the chair. Up until this time they hadn’t spoken for many years.

During her mother’s visit they slowly start talking and reminiscing. Her mother was a woman of few words and there had never been much communication in the past.  Lucy and her siblings had a very impoverished childhood – financially and emotionally – and her mother’s visit forces Lucy to confront this and other aspects of her life. Through their conversations we learn of her strange upbringing; the events and incidents and people of her childhood and adolescence that have also had an effect on her adult life; her ‘escape’ to New York; her aspirations to be a writer and her family life, past and present.

When her mother left and returned home after 5 nights, Lucy didn’t see her again until almost 9 years later when her mother was dying and Lucy paid a visit to her mother’s hospital room. Lucy’s story then continues and we learn of the other people who had an influence on her life: another writer, her daughters, her sister.

It is an emotional and beautifully written book. It is so well written it is easy to read even when there are leaps back and forwards in time.

It’s the first book I have read by Elizabeth Strout. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it but I did – very much.

[I was sent an advance copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a review]
Penguin Books UK, Viking, Feb 4.

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Filed under daughters, Elizabeth Strout,, My Name is Lucy Barton, NYC

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