My Name is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout
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.
“This is my story […] And my name is Lucy Barton”
Lucy Barton is writing a novel looking back on her life, the main focus of which is the nine weeks she spent in hospital recovering from an operation. One day when she wakes up she is surprised to find her mother sat at the foot of her bed. She hasn’t seen her mother in years, maybe decades, so she’s certainly taken aback to see her. Over a few days they share stories about damned marriages and mundane family feuds and Lucy finds herself recalling the childhood she had been trying so hard to forget.
“This is a story about a mother who loves her daughter. Imperfectly. Because we all love imperfectly.”
This book is well written, funny in places and heartbreaking in others. Lucy’s manages to explore so many characters and their own lives through her own story. It’s short and sweet but it’s a powerful read. Full of backstories that pull of the pieces together, I feel like I have just finished reading an excerpt of Lucy’s personal diary.
This book so realistic that I truly felt that I was reading words written by Lucy herself. If there hadn’t been the name of the author clearly written on the front cover, I would have probably thought this was an autobiography. The front cover itself is so lovely and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. The outer cover has a rectangular window cut into it, revealing the city skyline on the page underneath, exactly as Lucy would have seen it through her hospital window.
I wasn’t a massive fan of some of the more fragmented chapters here though. Some pages read like notes which weren’t quite finished, and while I appreciate that Lucy’s novel isn’t actually finished, these didn’t work as well in the story for me.
Overall rating: Full of poignant moments, “My Name is Lucy Barton” is a story of few words but one full of meaning. Lucy is looking back at her life and the people who have helped shape it. It’s realistic and it’s honest. I’m scoring my first Elizabeth Strout book 4 shiny stars!
See my other reviews of books by Elizabeth Strout here: