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My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016)

by Elizabeth Strout

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lucy Barton (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,7502303,810 (3.69)320
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 lay 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.… (more)
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» See also 320 mentions

English (219)  Spanish (3)  Catalan (3)  Dutch (2)  Piratical (1)  Finnish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (230)
Showing 1-5 of 219 (next | show all)
Beautiful, beautiful writing. Short and poetic. I’ve read nothing like this one. Must-read. ( )
  Lindsayshodgson | May 6, 2021 |
The book started to grow on me as the story was jumping around in the narrator's life, and her understated focus on AIDS, homophobia, and abuse was quite compelling. ( )
  WiebkeK | Jan 21, 2021 |
In a word: tender

I enjoyed this introspective book about the introverted Lucy Barton. Lucy survived a childhood of poverty, abuse, neglect, and abject loneliness. "Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden inside the crevices of my mouth, reminding me." Her family in rural Illinois included a father with PTSD and a mother who stood resolutely by her man. Lucy found escape in reading, in her later years becoming a writer.

The story centers on Lucy's lengthy stay in the hospital with a post-operative infection. Lucy's mother stayed with her for a critical five days during this ordeal, and in the book, Lucy reflects on her mother's stay and the memories it brought up. There are memories too intimate for Lucy to show us, maybe too traumatic for her to re-experience. We get glimpses. There are times now, and my life has changed so completely, that I think back on the early years and I find myself thinking: It was not that bad. Perhaps it was not. But there are times, too—unexpected—when walking down a sunny sidewalk, or watching the top of a tree bend in the wind, or seeing a November sky close down over the East River, I am suddenly filled with the knowledge of darkness so deep that a sound might escape from my mouth, and I will step into the nearest clothing store and talk with a stranger about the shape of sweaters newly arrived." Lucy meets writer Sarah Payne, who becomes a role model and mentor. And she comes to realize that: "even in her books, she was not telling exactly the truth, she was always staying away from something..." As does Lucy. The book is charged with tension between what is revealed and what is withheld, and in the end, Lucy keeps some of her secrets.

I chose this paperback from the shelf at Goodwill because I loved Olive Kitteridge. The print book is set in Sabon, an old style typeface, which added to my enjoyment.

Around the year in 52 books challenge notes:
#2. A book by an author whose last name is one syllable ( )
  Linda_Louise | Jan 20, 2021 |
Sorry but I just didn't get it. I enjoyed Ms. Strout's prose and wanted to keep reading but kept waiting for something of substance to happen. At the insertion of the stories relating to Sarah Payne I nearly put the book down - why are we going there. Readable but frustrating, I'm glad it was short. ( )
  FurbyKirby | Jan 5, 2021 |
After reading some reviews, I apparently missed a key part about her relationship with her father. I just thought he wasn't a great guy. It is a quiet book is the best way I can describe it. The writing style is very unique. ( )
  littlemuls | Dec 29, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 219 (next | show all)
I was in Lucy Barton’s head from the very first page.

It’s rare when this happens – when the words of a book hypnotize you. The experience doesn’t feel like reading at all. It’s like falling into someone else’s consciousness...Strout’s skill in channelling Lucy’s voice is breathtaking, especially considering it’s the first time the bestselling author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys has written a novel in the first person....This ability to love life, to notice small kindnesses, to remember the light in the sky and across the fields rather than the horrors of her childhood home, is Lucy’s salvation.

It is what we allow ourselves to see that helps us survive.
 
My Name Is Lucy Barton confirms Strout as a powerful storyteller immersed in the nuances of human relationships, weaving family tapestries with compassion, wisdom and insight. If she hadn’t already won the Pulitzer for Olive Kitteridge, this new novel would surely be a contender.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Strout, Elizabethprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mawson, MattPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mollica, GregCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Dedication
For my friend Kathy Chamberlain
First words
There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks.
Quotations
Whatever we call it, I think it's the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down.
Sarah Payne, the day she told us to go to the page without judgement, reminded us that we never knew, and never would know, what it would be like to understand another person fully.
"You will have only one story," she had said. "You'll write your story many ways. Don't ever worry about story. You have only one."
I feel that people may not understand that my mother could never say the words I love you.  I feel that people may not understand: It was all right.
Telling a lie and wasting food were always things to be punished for.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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 lay 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.

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