A simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the tender relationship between mother and daughter in this extraordinary novel by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys.
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 lie 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. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.
I had never read Elizabeth Strout prior to this book. In fact, I had no idea she was the author of Olive Kitteridge. Ultimately, I picked up this book because the third Amgash book, Oh, William!, is among the 2022 Booker Longlist, which I am reading for a #BookeroftheMonth bookclub; and I can not fathom reading books out of order.
My Name is Lucy Barton is a brilliant, evocative novel built on a simple premise. Lucy Barton is in the hospital and her mother, whom she has not spent time with as an adult visits her, at her husband’s request. Through the course of the novel, we learn about Lucy’s past, present, and future – her children, her marriage, her childhood, and her capacity for love. It is quite impossible to describe this book and accurately capture its essence. I think the closes I can get is to say it is about coming to terms with who you are, with your past and your present.
What I can say, without a doubt, is that My Name is Lucy Barton is utterly enchanting. Despite its lack of an intricate plot, the book managed to immediately capture my attention and hold on to it. I typically prefer a plot-driven novel over a character-driven one, although I prefer a book to be both. But Lucy Barton showed me that if done well, I can thoroughly enjoy any type of book.
Elizabeth Strout wrote My Name is Lucy Barton in quiet, stark prose that almost reads as a memoir. Somehow, it forces you to be introspective about your life and the people who you have met or known – both those who have stayed and those who have left. The book compels you to hold up a mirror and examine the complexity of love and your relationships.
Once I finished My Name is Lucy Barton. I wanted to immediately start over at the beginning and read it again. There is so much to ponder, appreciate, and absorb in this short book.
For an award-winning piece of literary fiction, Lucy Barton was incredibly accessible to the average reader and not at all snooty. I know that this is something that can deter many people, but trust me, this is one short novel that you can breeze through. So, I was surprised after finishing it to see how low the book is rated on Goodreads and Storygraph. I can only guess that people found the writing to be a bit strange for a novel and wanted more plot. This is also a book that requires some thought. If you only look at the surface, you may fail to grasp its meaning.
Overall, I reveled in My Name is Lucy Barton‘s profound simplicity. I loved this novel for its meditation on life, place, and relationships. I will be recommending it to everyone I know.
My Name is Lucy Barton
Janaury 12, 2016
2016 Booker Prize Longlist
2016 Women’s Prize Longlist