Title: My Name is Lucy Barton
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Award: Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016
Goodreads Blurb: “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. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lies the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters.”
I had this novel first suggested to me by a worker at Waterstones and from then on, I always looked at the display as I walked by. I am lucky enough to have an amazing boyfriend who knows and supports my love for books so receiving this from him was a lovely surprise.
This novel was one of the few in which I read almost all of in it one day and didn’t want to stop. It is written in such a raw and personal way that you feel as if you are sitting in a coffee shop with Lucy as she tells you her life story. One of the things that I enjoyed the most about this story was that with it being about how the past affected her future, you aren’t constantly confused about being sent to flashbacks but rather shown the memories as they hit her. You get to see what happened, how she felt at that time and then how she feels in the current day. It is a beautiful and effective way to write such a story.
“I have learned this: A person gets tired. The mind or the soul or whatever word we have for whatever is not just the body gets tired, and this, I have decided, is – usually, mostly – nature helping us. I was getting tired. I think – but I don’t know – that he was getting tired too.”
The best part for me about the main character was that her expressions of loneliness and feeling broken were not annoying. Too often, vulnerable, middle-aged female’s are written in a sob story way that makes them sound desperate for attention and like a mess that you would see in a dramatic, romance film. I found it almost comforting to read such a personable character – one who tells it as it is and pulls off the effect as if you are in her mind. You feel the pain, anger and love that she has for the people in her life. You see the impact of her childhood and marriage – the shock and heartbreak when her mother visits. The feelings are all real and Lucy Barton is like a real female woman in the real world.
(BIT OF A SPOILER) With that being said, I found it annoying how she says that she falls in love with almost every man that comes into her life. At the beginning of the book, it made sense with her discussing the relationship before her husband and the ways that it still affects her. However, it then gets to the point where she thinks she is in love with her gay neighbor and then her married doctor. She is a women, stuck in a hospital, with her mom visiting who she hasn’t seen in years, missing her children who aren’t being well taken care of by their father, and is worried about life afterwards. Does it make sense and add drama to the plot? Yes. Does it get repetitive and annoying to constantly read that she loves a guy whenever she introduces him into her life story? Yes.
“Do I understand that hurt my children feel? I think I do, though they might claim otherwise. But I think I know so well the pain we children clutch to our chests, how it lasts our whole lifetime, with longings so large you can’t even weep. We hold it tight, we do, with each seizure of the beating heart; This is mine, this is mine, this is mine.”
Now for her mom – the main conflict of the novel. What a character she is! I was constantly going back and forth between hating and having sympathy for her. She is made out to be this complex mystery that Lucy never fully knew nor ever will. The tension and awkwardness felt through their talks and the way the mother sits in the room is beautifully heartbreaking. The whole time I thought, “I am so thankful that my mom and I aren’t like this.” Their relationship effected everything in the main character’s life from her relationship with her siblings and father to having children of her own. I just wanted to scream at the mom to be normal and take care of her child for once. And I admit, quite often there was the sense that the mother did want to do this but felt as though she couldn’t – good job Elizabeth Strout for purporsefully causing that frustration. With that being said, the last part with the mom really pissed me off but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Overall, it was a beautiful novel. I really enjoyed it and am so glad that I read it. It is written beautifully, easy to get through while traveling and is one of those stories that I wish more were like. It was refreshing to read and I am now curious about Strout’s other books.
Would I suggest this book to a friend?: Yes
Do I suggest reading this novel if you enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love?: Yes
Goodreads Rating: 4/5