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My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel Paperback – October 11, 2016
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“Sensitive, deceptively simple . . . [Elizabeth] Strout captures the pull between the ruthlessness required to write without restraint and the necessity of accepting others’ flaws. 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
“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.”—Newsday
“Spectacular . . . Smart and cagey in every way . . . 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
“An aching, illuminating look at mother-daughter devotion.”—People
“This slim, perceptive novel packs more sentiment and pain into its unsparingly honest and forthright prose than novels two and three times as long. Strout . . . has always awed us with her ability to put into words the mysterious and unfathomable ways in which people cherish each other.”—Chicago Tribune
“Lucy Barton is . . . potent with distilled emotion. Without a hint of self-pity, Strout captures the ache of loneliness we all feel sometimes.”—Time
“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—‘I was so happy. Oh, I was happy’—simple joy.”—Claire Messud, The New York Times Book Review
“Deeply affecting.”—The Guardian
“Strout allies herself less with recent autobiographical fictions than with Ernest Hemingway, whose style remains unmatched for its capacity to convey the effects of trauma without sentimentality. . . . Reading My Name Is Lucy Barton, I was frequently put in mind of Hemingway’s famous injunction to write ‘the truest sentence that you know.’”—The Wall Street Journal
“Impressionistic and haunting . . . With Lucy Barton, [Strout] reminds us of the power of our stories—and our ability to transcend our troubled narratives.”—Miami Herald
“Writing of this quality comes from a commitment to listening, from a perfect attunement to the human condition, from an attention to reality so exact that it goes beyond a skill and becomes a virtue.”—Hilary Mantel
About the Author
- Item Weight : 7.2 ounces
- Paperback : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0812979524
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812979527
- Product Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.63 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint Edition (October 11, 2016)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #51,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Now living in New York City, Lucy Barton recalls one brief time in her life when she was hospitalized in Manhattan with a mysterious infection. While in her hospital bed, she recalls her impoverished childhood life in rural Amgash, Illinois and the people who influenced her as she grew to adulthood--from the school janitor to her abusive and dysfunctional parents to a college professor with whom she had an affair to her husband. It is so engrossing and meaningful. Much in this book will make you pause and think.
This is the prequel to "Anything Is Possible," which is a series of stories about the people in Amgash with Lucy Barton as a thread throughout. Do read "My Name Is Lucy Barton" first to fully appreciate "Anything Is Possible."
Aside to Elizabeth Strout: YOU are a ruthless writer!
Aside to Everyone Else: Read the book, and you will know why this is a compliment.
My Name Is Lucy Barton tells the story of a woman, named Lucy, as she recovers from an illness and tries to make sense of/peace with her complicated relationship with her mother. Lucy was raised in extreme poverty by parents who were not able to nurture and show her love in the manner that most children need. These circumstances have a fundamental and lasting impact on Lucy’s understanding of people, including herself, her choices, and the woman she is.
The novel is written from Lucy’s point of view and comes across as a mix of a diary, vignettes of events, puzzles with half-revealed truths, but mostly, her own “one true story”. Strout uses language sparsely and with restraint. The novel is a short 191 pages that can be read quickly but should be savored slowly. The details are minimal and pared down to only the essentials. However, those pages resonate with a profusion of intense emotion and the vulnerability of the human condition. Loneliness, longing, pain, and inferiority are all felt strongly throughout the novel but so are resilience and love. At one point Lucy says “I feel I know a true sentence when I hear one now”. Strout filled this novel with true sentences. The novel summarizes itself nicely with the quotation “This is a story about love, … This is a story about a mother who loves her daughter. Imperfectly. Because we all love imperfectly.” I highly recommend this novel and suspect that Lucy will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.
Top reviews from other countries
My Name Is Lucy Barton is a short, sparse novel and every word, every incident related is carefully chosen. There's a veil of ambiguity over the whole novel that made me constantly question what I was reading. It's clear that Lucy's mother, Lydia, remembers certain things very differently to the way Lucy does. Was Lucy's childhood really as bad as she believes it to have been, or - as someone who tells stories for a living - is she creating an embellished narrative to express some other, even deeper problem? There's an extra layer of uncertainty, too, as Lucy is looking back on her hospital stay and relating her conversations with her mother to us at a much later date, long after the two children she worries about while in hospital have grown up. We're not just relying on memories: we're relying on memories of memories. What, exactly, are the vague, undiagnosed complications she's suffering after her appendectomy - and is it just a coincidence that, having spent her childhood wary of a volatile, disturbed father, she is almost obsessively attached to the kind, calm and paternal doctor who oversees her care? Lucy may have left behind her traumatic past for New York, comfortable affluence and literary acclaim, but she'll never be able to escape her family's influence completely, and her relationship with her own daughters seems far from clear-cut.
It's not often that a novel says so much in so few words. Strout's prose is beautifully economical and Lucy's recollections are shaped by her traumatic experiences, some of which she is clearly repressing, so what's left out is sometimes just as important as what's included. This is a thoughtful exploration of fractured, complicated family relationships and the ripple effect of childhood poverty and neglect through the generations.
While narrated solely through Lucy Barton’s voice, unlike the multiple voices in “OK”, Lucy’s voice is uncertain, prone to revision and wavering, as she looks back on her long hospital stay as a young wife and mother. Her mother’s visit triggers stark memories of her impoverished (and possibly abusive) childhood and informs her ambivalent relationship with her mother, as she sees both of them through others’ eyes.
Written like a confessional or a memoir, the novel is made up of moments, side stories, recounted conversations, ponderings, stitched together. Lucy tells of her struggles as a fledgling writer, and her determination to write what is real, following the advice of a writer that “if you find yourself protecting anyone as you write this piece, remember this: You’re not doing it right”. What comes through in Lucy’s own narrative about her family is her inability at times to do just that as she reports on her parents’ neglect and abuse, but which is mingled with apology and excuses made in their behalf as she also tries to show the tender side to them, which gives her whole writing exercise a metafictive slant, revealing much about Lucy Barton herself. She reminds the reader at several points in the story that this is not a story about her marriage and yet it seeps through, over and over again, as it is part of her story and cannot be left out.
A quietly moving novel, that draws the reader in to all the hopes, fears and dreams of a character in all her vulnerability and brokenness, as she finds a way to grab onto herself and define who she is.
This book is different, I bought it because I went to the theatre a few months back to see the play with Laura Linney and I was so deeply touched by her performance!it made me want to re live the story, a story that I feel belongs to all of us, one way or another, about families, our relationship with our parents,our fears, our lives and how everything comes full circle at the end. Always.
Elisabeth Strout doesn't write a story, she whispers it to our ears to remind us that it's alright to cry and be human and scared. One of the best.