Friday, December 13, 2019
FFB: MY Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout
Lucy Barton, a young mother, is in the hospital after an appendectomy that left her with a stubborn infection. From her bed, she examines her past, present and future. Her childhood was an abusive one-although she doesn't despise her mother, who shows up after a many years' estrangement for a five-day visit. For much of the book, I thought her mother was some sort of apparition, and I am not sure it wouldn't have worked better had she been. Like OLIVE KITTERIDGE,(Strout's earlier book) Lucy and her mother are not always easy to understand. Lines like this one, threw me:
"Otherwise on occasion, and without warning, my mother, and usually in the presence of our father, struck us impulsively and vigorously."
An impoverished childhood leads Lucy to a life that looks successful on paper: a writer with a husband and two children. Yet this hospital stay allows another woman to steal that away from her. Yet a passivity on Lucy's part keeps the reader a bit distant from all of her travails.
On occasion, you intuit that a writer's (Strout) life experiences are so different from yours that you will never fully understand her characters. And although I love Strout's novels and her writing, I am always looking at the page through gauze. I don't mind it though. I don't expect to "get" every novel I read any longer.