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Anything Is Possible: A Novel by Elizabeth…

Anything Is Possible: A Novel (edition 2017)

by Elizabeth Strout (Author)

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Title:Anything Is Possible: A Novel
Authors:Elizabeth Strout (Author)
Info:Random House (2017), 272 pages
Collections:New Books

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Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout



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Elizabeth Strout has blessed us again. Anything is Possible is a faultless series of observations of the family and townspeople of her recently renowned heroine, Lucy Barton. She adopts the format that served so well in Olive Kitteredge - lives become illuminated in a series of superb short stories relating to the principals. I waited in vain for one of the pieces to revert back to a main character covered earlier in the book. It didn’t happen, and it didn’t happen because it didn’t need to. I expect Anything is Possible to bring home the hardware, just like Olive Kitteridge (2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) and My Name is Lucy Barton (long-listed for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, so far). It’s sublime.

A plot summary doesn’t really apply to this book, since it consists of a roundelay of short stories. In them, an older retired gentleman’s faith is tested by an unexpected response to kindness. A veteran of Viet Nam laughs at the (to him) antiquated concept of “character” when deciding to help his mistress out for the last time. A high school guidance counselor polices her own behavior, and shows kindness to a disrespectful teen (Lucy Barton’s niece) desperately in need of it. A middle-aged woman finally reaches an understanding with her mother who has fled to Europe to remarry. Children raised in abject poverty - foraging-in-Dumpsters poverty - raise themselves up to own and manage businesses.

And these bare synopses do nothing to tell how beautifully paced and painted these vignettes are. Strout again shows utter mastery of this form. We witness in distinct, utter clarity the heart-rending events in these lives; the language and heart couldn’t be more sympathetic or understanding. It inspires that awe we experience when in the presence of a master.

For instance, in “Snow Blind” we learn of the innocent and sanguine upbringing of a girl who becomes a captivating actress later in life. Farmland under a new blanket of blinding snow stands in for the young girl’s successful navigation of the threats around her. The beautiful and stark colors of the Italian coast set the scene in “Mississippi Mary” of an elderly woman’s choice to live the last chapter of her life deeply in love. The uncertainty of his mistress’s given name corresponds to a troubled man’s confusion about the direction of his life in “The Hit-Thumb Theory.”

I could go on, but I don’t want to indicate that I followed the corners turned and characters revisited from story to story, because in fact I didn’t. I drank up these stories as they were poured out, with such clarity and such charity as can only be accomplished by Elizabeth Strout.

http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2017/05/anything-is-possible-by-elizabeth-str... ( )
  LukeS | May 11, 2017 |
Did linked short stories exist before Elizabeth Strout? If so - does anyone do them better? I read the book twice, just to enjoy mapping out the connections.
These nine stories are actually spokes around the wheel of Strout's previous work, the novel My Name Is Lucy Barton. Each character tracks back to Lucy - siblings, teacher, custodian, cousins, friends - and some yield up painful information about Lucy's desperately impoverished childhood. "Sister" is the central story that brings together the three siblings - Pete, Vicky, and Lucy - in a reunion that contains all the pain on earth, with a tiny bit of redemption. One story takes place in Maine, and the rest in rural Amgash (just the place name along - ugh) Illinois. The paucity of any true community between these citizens and neighbors may be the most frightening aspect of the tales - except for Lucy's mother - whose son says, "I don't know about her in some big way."

Quotes: "Yvonne, in her youth, most likely had not come from much. Shoes always gave you away."

"Mary had spent more time thinking about Elvis than anyone could have imagined, and in this way the pleasure of her mind - because it was her mind and could not be known by others - had developed early in her marriage. In her mind, she had looked into his lonely eyes and let him see that she understood him."

"Mary was very angry. She had never liked being angry; she didn't know what to do with it." ( )
  froxgirl | May 5, 2017 |
Elizabeth Strout has a gift for connected short stories. This collection focuses on the everyday lives of people in a rural midwestern community, many of whom are struggling economically or emotionally. Lucy Barton, the heroine of Strout’s previous novel, hails from this community, and while she has been absent for many years, her presence is still felt by siblings and former classmates. Strout fills in details of Lucy’s life that were barely glimpsed in the novel, and Lucy eventually makes an appearance. But while the connections to the novel are interesting, it’s not central to enjoying this book. Anything is Possible stands completely on its own as an set of quite of moving portraits of people just trying to get by. ( )
2 vote lauralkeet | May 5, 2017 |
I'm not sure that I would suggest this title to anyone. I kept waiting for the redeeming ideas. The "professional" reviews talk about grace and optimism, overcoming adversity. I just felt sad and upset through every chapter.
  splinfo | May 3, 2017 |
If you haven't read Elizabeth Strout's novel, Lucy Barton, prior to picking up Anything Is Possible, that would be a shame. Not because you actually need to have read it in order to appreciate this new novel. Just because it was such a fine, delicate, book. Full of sadness and, despite the sadness, hope. And that, in a way, very much characterizes Strout's latest novel as well. Sadness, piles of sadness, and yet glimmers of hope.

Lucy Barton is a character in Anything is Possible, though she only appears in person in one chapter. But she is there in all the other chapters as well, through the friends, relations, and acquaintances who connect to her life. And if Lucy has grown up in abject poverty and worse, then she is not alone. Indeed, nearly everyone whom Strout focuses upon here is burdened by suffering or sadness (these are not the same). A few are severely disturbed, even dangerous. But most are merely helpless victims of their environments, their families, or their compulsions. It would be very bleak reading if it weren't for the surprising (is it surprising?) rays of light that break through.

Lucy is one of these, but she is not alone. In their small ways, nearly everyone who has survived their childhood has found some measure of grace. I don't know if that is Strout's general view on life or just a reflection of these particular characters. But it makes for compelling reading.

Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote RandyMetcalfe | May 2, 2017 |
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For my brother, Jon Strout
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Tommy Guptill had once owned a dairy farm, which he'd inherited from his father, and which was about two miles from the town of Amgash, Illinois.
This was the skin that protected you from the world--this loving of another person you shared your life with.
And you have always taken up so much space in my heart that it has sometimes felt to be a burden.
What puzzled Abel about life was how much one forgot but then lived with anyway--like phantom limbs, he supposed.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812989406, Hardcover)

From #1 New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout comes a brilliant latticework of fiction reminiscent of Olive Kitteridge.

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 09 Oct 2016 12:12:38 -0400)

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