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My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 12, 2016

3.5 out of 5 stars 1,665 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of January 2016: Do not be misled by the slimness of this volume, the quietness of its prose, the seeming simplicity of its story line: Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton is as powerful and disturbing as the best of Strout’s work, including the Pulitzer Prizewinning Olive Kitteridge. In fact, it bears much resemblance to that novel-- and to Strout’s debut Amy and Isabelle--in that it deals with small-town women, who are always more complicated than they seem and often less likable than many contemporary heroines. Here, Strout tells the story of a thirtysomething wife and mother who is in the hospital for longer than she expected, recovering from an operation. She’s not dying, but her situation is serious enough that her mother-- whom she has not seen in many years-- arrives at her bedside. The two begin to talk. Their style is undramatic, gentle-- just the simple unspooling of memories between women not generally given to sharing them; still, the accumulation of detail and the repetitive themes of longing and lifelong missed connections add up to revelations that, in another writer’s heavy hands, might be melodramatic. In Strout’s they are anything but. Rarely has a book been louder in its silences, or more plainly and completely devastating. --Sara Nelson

Review

“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
 
“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. . . . [Elizabeth Strout] is in supreme and magnificent command of this novel at all times.”—Lily King, 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.”—Marion Winik, Newsday
 
Lucy Barton is . . . potent with distilled emotion. Without a hint of self-pity, Strout captures the ache of loneliness we all feel sometimes.”Time
 
“An aching, illuminating look at mother-daughter devotion.”People
 
“A quiet, sublimely merciful contemporary novel about love, yearning, and resilience in a family damaged beyond words.”The Boston Globe
 
“Sensitive, deceptively simple . . . 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
 
“Strout maps the complex terrain of human relationships by focusing on that which is often unspoken and only implied. . . . [My Name Is Lucy Barton is] a powerful addition to Strout’s body of work.”The Seattle Times
 
“Impressionistic and haunting . . . Much of the joy of reading Lucy Barton comes from piecing together the hints and half-revelations in Strout’s unsentimental but compelling prose, especially as you begin to grasp the nature of a bond in which everything important is left unsaid. . . . Strout paints an indelible, grueling portrait of poverty and abuse that’s all the more unnerving for her reticence. With My Name Is Lucy Barton, she reminds us of the power of our stories—and our ability to transcend our troubled narratives.”Miami Herald
 
“Lovely and heartbreaking . . . a major work in minimalist form . . . In the character of Lucy, Strout has fashioned one of the great resilient modern heroines.”Portland Press-Herald
 
“Strout has proven once again that she is a master of creating unforgettable characters. . . . Her stories open themselves to the reader in a way that is familiar and relatable, but then she delivers these zingers and we marvel at her talent.”The Post and Courier
 
“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
  
“Magnificent.”—Ann Patchett
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Ed edition (January 12, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067693
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067695
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,665 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ladybug TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 27, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Lucy Barton is looking back, processing various events from her life--most of them fairly awful. That time when her mom visited her in the hospital when she was so sick. That time her dad humiliated her brother, calling him a "f*cking fagg*t" in front of everyone after he was caught trying on Mom's high heels. That time her parents locked her in the truck with a snake. All that time when she and her family lived in her uncle's cold, cold garage.

Lucy is soft, sweet, likable, kind--that much is clear right away. She's wounded, and, despite the fact that she's older, married with kids, and enjoying moderate success as a writer, she's still walking around shell-shocked by childhood traumas. I kept picturing Lucy as an injured kitten mewing helplessly in the street, and I wanted to take care of her. From the first few pages, I readied myself to settle in and hear it all. Tell me everything, Lucy. Mew away.

And Lucy has some interesting things to say, especially about dysfunctional and abusive families--things I understand and identify with, truthfully. She's insightful and honest, and it's obvious that Lucy wants to be strong. She wants to be OKAY. But she's also so desperate to be loved, to be seen--especially by her mother--that sometimes she keeps the truth tucked neatly away. In fact, she'd rather forgive her mom everything than acknowledge that her mom is capable of so much cruelty. (The moments when Lucy essentially begs for her mother's paltry scraps of affection are tough to read.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My Name is Lucy Barton was a hard book to review because I found myself disagreeing with the main premise of the book and not being at all fond of the main character. After Strout's luminous writing in Olive Kitteridge, I've looked forward to reading each new novel from her. If, like me, you are expecting writing that resembles Olive Kitteridge, you will be disappointed in this book. While this is another story about a family with it's own issues, Lucy Barton is narrated in the first person by the main character in an amateurish style resembling a beginning writer's first work. That is exactly what it is supposed to be - an autobiography of sorts written by the main character. In that, it is an interesting read.

However, Lucy's story is full of gaps and untold secrets. There are clues of an abusive childhood - or of perceived abuse - but Lucy never does reveal what exactly went on in her poverty stricken family. There are further hints of a father suffering from PTSD but the embarrassment is only clearly spoken of once. Chapters are often very short focusing on events and people in Lucy's life. In relationships with other people Lucy is hungry for connection to an uncomfortable extent. A character that reappears often is the unnamed doctor who Lucy seems to see as a father figure.

Ostensibly, the novel centers on Lucy's relationship with her mother and a time when her mother came to stay with her while Lucy lay sick in a hospital. The relationship is an odd one with Lucy's feelings towards her mother swinging from one extreme to the other. At all times, though, she remains the needy child still trying to gain her rather cold parent's approval.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Perhaps, as Lucy Barton’s writing instructor Sarah Payne says, we really only have one story within us. If this is so, then Elizabeth Strout’s consistent story is about imperfect love and striving for connection. Or, to use Sarah Payne’s own words, “…to report on the human condition to tell us who we are and what we think and what we do.”

Elizabeth Strout rose to the occasion beautifully with her creation of Olive Kitteridge – a flawed, closed-down woman who has steeled herself from the world with layers of self-protection. There are wisps of Olive Kitteridge in Lucy Barton’s mother, but for Lucy herself, the world still gives ample reasons for amazement.

We meet Lucy during her nine-week stay at a NYC hospital for an undisclosed illness. Her mother, who never did enough to protect her from an impoverished life and an unpredictable father, flies to her bedside. The “meat” of the story focuses on what is NOT said during this time period. While her mother compulsively talks about “marriages gone bad”, she is unable to give Lucy what she really needs: verbal affirmation that she is loved.

Yet this is more than a simple story of a mother and daughter reconciliation. It goes right to the heart of how we remember and convey our own truths. When Lucy does connect to the writer Sarah Payne, she thinks this: “I liked her books. I like writers who try to tell you something truthful.” At the same time, she muses, “”And then I realized that even in her books, she was not telling exactly the truth, she was always staying away from something. Why, she could barely say her name!”

Owning one’s own truth – embodying one’s own name -- is the vital element for redemption and acceptance. This book does not only peer into the heart of one woman with a need for healing; it also peers into the heart of how fiction can heal.
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