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Anything Is Possible: A Novel Hardcover – April 25, 2017
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“In Elizabeth Strout’s Anything Is Possible, her stunning follow-up to My Name Is Lucy Barton, a famous author returns to the Midwestern hometown of her childhood, touching off a daisy-chain of stories narrated by those who knew her—memories of trauma and goodwill, resentments small and large, and the ever-widening gulf between haves and have-nots. Strout, always good, just keeps getting better.”—Vogue
“Full of searing insight into the darkest corners of the human spirit . . . Anything Is Possible is both sweeping in scope and incredibly introspective. That delicate balance is what makes its content so sharp and compulsively readable. . . . Strout’s winning formula . . . has succeeded once again. With assuredness, compassion and utmost grace, her words and characters remind us that in life anything is actually possible.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Anything Is Possible is a stunner. It is unblinking in its psychological portrayals of a cast of characters raised in socially impaired households in a small, Northern Illinois community. . . . A score of major and minor characters are drawn in such rich, crisp detail that they sear the heart. . . . Strout’s gifts as a storyteller are evocative of Edward Hopper’s captured moments of American life. Like Hopper, in Anything Is Possible, Strout leaves impressions you’ll not soon forget.”—Portland Press Herald
“While we recommend everything by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer—like, say her recent book My Name Is Lucy Barton—this novel, which explores life’s complexities through interconnected stores, stands on its own. . . . It’s a joy to read a modern master doing her thing.”—Marie Claire
“If you miss the charmingly eccentric and completely relatable characters from Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout’s best-selling My Name Is Lucy Barton, you’ll be happily reunited with them in Strout’s smart and soulful Anything Is Possible.”—Elle
“Strout pierces the inner worlds of these characters’ most private behaviors, illuminating the emotional conflicts and pure joy of being human, of finding oneself in the search for the American dream.”—NYLON
“We devoured Strout’s last novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton, and her latest—which is loosely linked to Lucy Barton—is no different. Told from multiple points of view, it’s about residents of a small town in Illinois struggling with the most relatable and quotidian problems . . . you’ll swear you know these characters. (In fact, it reminds us a bit of another of Strout’s masterpieces, the excellent Olive Kitteridge.)”—PureWow
“Amgash, Illinois, will be familiar to Elizabeth Strout fans as the hometown of the protagonist of her 2016 novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton. In Anything Is Possible . . . Lucy’s legend looms large . . . but no prior reading is required to enjoy Strout’s powerful writing and empathy.”—Real Simple
“In her latest work, Strout achieves new levels of masterful storytelling.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The epic scope within seemingly modest confines recalls Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge, and her ability to discern vulnerabilities buried beneath bad behavior is as acute as ever. Another powerful examination of painfully human ambiguities and ambivalences—this gifted writer just keeps getting better.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“With her latest work, Pulitzer Prize winner Strout (for Olive Kitteridge) crafts a deep and complex inside view of the hearts and minds of individuals who make up a community.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“It’s hard to believe that a year after the astonishing My Name Is Lucy Barton Elizabeth Strout could bring us another book that is by every measure its equal, but what Strout proves to us again and again is that where she’s concerned, anything is possible. This book, this writer, are magnificent.”—Ann Patchett
Praise for Elizabeth Strout’s My Name Is Lucy Barton
“There is not a scintilla of sentimentality in this exquisite novel. Instead, in its careful words and vibrating silences, My Name Is Lucy Barton offers us a rare wealth of emotion, from darkest suffering to . . . simple joy.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Spectacular . . . My Name Is Lucy Barton is smart and cagey in every way. It is both a book of withholdings and a book of great openness and wisdom. . . . [Strout] is in supreme and magnificent command of this novel at all times.”—The Washington Post
“My Name Is Lucy Barton is a short novel about love, particularly the complicated love between mothers and daughters, but also simpler, more sudden bonds. . . . It evokes these connections in a style so spare, so pure and so profound the book almost seems to be a kind of scripture or sutra, if a very down-to-earth and unpretentious one.”—Newsday
“A quiet, sublimely merciful contemporary novel about love, yearning, and resilience in a family damaged beyond words.”—The Boston Globe
“Sensitive, deceptively simple . . . It is Lucy’s gentle honesty, complex relationship with her husband, and nuanced response to her mother’s shortcomings that make this novel so subtly powerful. . . . My Name Is Lucy Barton—like all of Strout’s fiction—is more complex than it first appears, and all the more emotionally persuasive for it.”—San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Elizabeth Strout is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge; the #1 New York Times bestseller My Name Is Lucy Barton; The Burgess Boys, a New York Times bestseller; Abide with Me, a national bestseller and Book Sense pick; and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker and O: The Oprah Magazine. Elizabeth Strout lives in New York City.
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Top Customer Reviews
We met Lucy Barton as a patient in a New York hospital. She had an appendectomy, and spent five weeks suffering from some sort of infection. Her husband had little time for visits and so he sent Lucy's mother from Illinois to stay with her. Lucy and her family had been estranged for many years. Few contacts, Lucy called when her daughters were born, but there was never any discussion of Lucy's life or the life she came from. And, so it is with mom's visit. Mom sits quietly in a chair, refuses all invitations to rest. She sits and she and Lucy talk about the people they knew. All gossip, and all dismal. These families who were gossiped about come to life in this book.
Lucy is a well-known author, rarely visits her hometown, her poor family was disparaged and is thus remembered by the locals. Her brother, Pete, and sister, Vicky are still around, Vicky full of resentment. We meet Tommy Guptill, a janitor at the school who was kind to Lucy and to her brother, Pete. Pete Barton who has lived a spartan life in the old homestead. Patty Nicely, another good person who is insulted by Vicky's daughter, Lila. Patty's sister, Linda and her husband, may be the nastiest of the bunch. The daughter who loves her mother too much. The brother and sister, Abel and Dottie, who each found their way to goodness and kindness. Dottie's story may be the one I will remember and giggle about for a long time. Abel one of those men whom everyone liked. Charley and the Appleby family, all resounding with Issues. Many of the stories in this small town in Illinois have to do with rank and class. The poor and the rich, never the two shall meet, for very long. And, most of all the people who never risked the passion that put them in danger, simply to be near the dazzle of the white sun as Annie Appleby so elequently expressed.
Elizabeth Strout has given us every emotion from A to Z in these characters who are trying to understand themselves and their neighbors. Such a massive display of every day people expressed in such utter brilliance.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 01-29-17
First, however, it must be said that in order to fully enjoy and appreciate this book, you really must have read her previous book, "My Name is Lucy Barton." In fact, I think of these two books as companions. In "Lucy Barton," the reader is introduced to Lucy, a writer living in New York City, who is enduring a lengthy hospital stay following complications of surgery. Her mother, from whom she is estranged, shows up one day unannounced and stays at Lucy's bedside for five days. In their conversations, they discuss many people from the past in the small town where Lucy grew up, Amgash, Illinois. In this book, the reader gets a feel for Lucy's traumatic childhood and impoverished family and her remarkable journey to become an esteemed writer.
"Anything Is Possible" tells the reader more about most of the people who were only mentioned in the previous book. It is not a coherent novel with a straightforward plot; rather, it is like a camera giving us a snapshot into the lives of many people from Lucy's past, including her brother Pete and her sister Vicky. It provides us with a backstory on each character, so that what we were told about them in "Lucy" is expanded and fleshed out, making almost all the characters more sympathetic.
I liked all of these stories, but one of my favorites was the first, "The Sign." The main character in this story, Tommy Guptill, whose kindness and compassion are remarkable, is the school custodian who allows the child Lucy to stay after school for hours so that she can keep warm. In "The Sign," we learn about the tragedy that led Tommy to become a custodian, and we see his present day interaction with Lucy's reclusive older brother, Pete. Tommy is one of the most sympathetic characters I have met in a long time.
I also enjoyed "Sister," a story in which the Barton siblings are reunited after many years of not having seen each other. The reader sees how the past has affected each of them and learns new details about the abuse and isolation they endured. I am in awe that they survived at all, given the past; Lucy's panic attack at the end is completely believable.
Strout's writing is wonderful. I am most drawn to the honesty of her observations, her refusal to sugarcoat anything. If you read "Lucy," you will see that this is an obsession of sorts with her, and it is no less evident in this collection of stories. Another collection by Strout, "Olive Kitteridge," is more unified, but given the fact that the unifying character in this book does not even appear in some of the stories, this lack of complete unity did not bother me.
Although I loved this book, I recognize that it is not for everyone. Some members of my book club were put off by the lack of plot in "My Name Is Lucy Barton," and I especially caution readers who have not yet read "Lucy." Yes, of course you can read these stories on their own, but it is hard for me to see what meaning they would have for you unless you had read the previous book. If you are looking for a tight plot, look elsewhere. However, I highly recommend this book for people who appreciate superb, closely observed writing and can tolerate some scenes of almost unspeakable abuse of children.