My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout’s books are not sunny, laugh out loud books. Sometimes it’s hard to even crack a smile while reading them. But that’s because she hands us a mirror and dares us to look at ourselves. Warts, wrinkles and all. I read Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys and remember thinking “Hoo, boy!” when I finished them. I almost didn’t request Lucy Barton because I knew what would be required of me while reading it. But I did request it from NetGalley and was given a copy.
My Name is Lucy Barton is told very simply. Lucy is in the hospital during a very prolonged recovery. She hasn’t seen her mother in over 9 years and yet, she comes to visit and stays five days. Five days is a long time, a lot of empty space to fill when you haven’t talked to someone in years. Lucy and her mother begin with idle hometown news that moves on to more detailed conversations. But I felt the conversations played out on the surface. Nothing deep. Nothing disturbing to either person. Nothing to rock the boat. Just enough to soften the edges.
Except Lucy keeps saying the word “love.” She loves her doctor, she loves her children, she loves this or that nurse. And, as much as she couldn’t wait to leave her life of deep, deep poverty behind, and wants to understand her, she loves her mother. And she tells her so. Lucy’s mother uses pet words when she addresses and talks to Lucy. We see she loves Lucy or she wouldn’t have come.
The author does not disappoint with Lucy Barton. This one creeps up on you.