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Anything Is Possible

by Elizabeth Strout

Series: Lucy Barton (2)

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1,4079610,040 (3.94)121
"Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others. Here are two sisters: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband while the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. The janitor at the local school has his faith tested in an encounter with an isolated man he has come to help; a grown daughter longs for mother love even as she comes to accept her mother's happiness in a foreign country; and the adult Lucy Barton (the heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the author's celebrated New York Times bestseller) returns to visit her siblings after seventeen years of absence. Reverberating with the deep bonds of family, and the hope that comes with reconciliation, Anything Is Possible again underscores Elizabeth Strout's place as one of America's most respected and cherished authors"--Amazon.com.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
This book is basically the follow-up to "My Name is Lucy Barton". It feels like a collection of short stories but in the end, all these people are connected in one way or the other, also connected to the Barton family. Although this book is not really about the Barton family anymore (although Lucy herself makes an appearance at some point). We learn about those people that appeared - briefly or in more detail - in the Lucy Barton story when Lucy and her mother talk about them. We get a closer look at who they are and how their lives are or have been and where the connections to Lucy and her family are. Some say that this book is quite depressing and full of miserable people. Well, if you want to look only at the surface... yes, there's a point. And if you're looking for some entertaining stuff with a classic plot of beginning, middle and end... yes, there's a point too. But if you're interested in character studies and a deeper look at small-town America, or if you want some of the open questions that you have after reading Lucy Barton, this book is for you. It's about how people deal with what's thrown at them in their lives, how they learn from it (or not), how they give back to others or are forever damaged. It's about love and forgiveness, about how some make it out of a miserable childhood and poverty into prosperity and about how some are never given a real chance to do so. It's about use and abuse. I felt for so many of these people. There were some stories that I wanted to learn more about. I could totally see this being adapted to a show on Netflix. Each short story = one episode. Or something like that. If you have loved "My Name is Lucy Barton", you really should read this book. It has touched me deeply.

I'm referring to the audiobook version, again marvellously read by Kimberly Farr.

From all that I've heard about Olive Kitteridge, I guess "Anything is Possible" is similar in style, as in a collection of short stories that are all connected in one way or the other. Now let me check if Olive Kitteridge is available as an audiobook too so that I can check out my 3rd Elizabeth Strout novel in a row. She's THAT good! ( )
  Heidi64 | Jul 18, 2021 |
This is a sequel of sorts to Strout's [My Name Is Lucy Barton], which I liked but didn't remember the details of all that well. I don't think that's necessary for this one, anyway, though. Suffice it to say that Lucy Barton is a woman who grew up in poverty in a small town in Illinois and eventually moved away to become a successful author. She reappears here, making her first, painful visit to her hometown in a very long time, but she is neither the focus nor the narrator. Nobody is, really. This is one of those works that can maybe be viewed as a novel, and maybe as a collection of linked short stories, with each chapter/story focusing on a different person who bears some connection to Lucy, or to the town, or to the other characters. Each person has their own story, but there are definitely some common themes. These are stories of secrets, of difficult and often abusive relationships between parents and children, of failing marriages, of PTSD, and, very occasionally, of quiet love and small moments of grace.

Strout's writing is interesting. It seems terribly sparse and simple, maybe too much so, and her portraits of all these various people feel well-observed, but not particularly satisfying. At first, anyway. But something about it all really creeps up on you, and suddenly you find yourself unexpectedly moved by some small moment or some perfectly apt way of saying things, and you realize that you're reading a writer who really knows what she's doing. At least, it had that effect on me here, and I'm kind of impressed by it. ( )
  bragan | May 26, 2021 |
This expanded on "My Name is Lucy Barton" and I think I enjoyed this one even more. It rounds out the original character and presents her from different angles based on the memories and observations of those who "knew her when." The focus is the small town of Amgash, IL, which I also could appreciate. Lucy Barton has a new book out - a memoir - and various people in the town are aware (or not) of this and it brings her to mind. Each featured townsperson has his/her own chapter which centers more on his/her own life and struggles or history or memories and sometimes Lucy figures in and sometimes they just dovetail with each other over an event or a situation. It reminded me of Spoon River Anthology, which I love. No person is ever an island and even if we don't know someone personally, or roots and connections are all part of a web that holds our lives and selves and actions and relationships. I find this concept fascinating and it is done very well here. The ultimate take-away is healing and understanding, empathy and respect. Lucy herself comes to visit - her brother, stunted and alone and her sister, bitter and unhappy still live in town. Lucy drives out for an afternoon when her book tour brings her to Chicago. This chapter is pivotal in understanding her and the family, though it falls somewhere in the middle. It is another tale among many that define her life. The book is a great exploration of human nature and how that influences our relationships and our ability to be part of (or not) a community. ( )
  CarrieWuj | Oct 24, 2020 |
The stories from Amgash are loosely intertwined with characters alternately taking the focus and also seen secondarily from other points of view in other stories. The quality of the collection is a bit uneven, but overall the writing is superb. Fair warning though, I found the stories mostly devastatingly sad and depressing. A couple in particular staggered me, and I won’t be able to forget them. While not a pleasant view of the human condition, reading them gives you a more charitable view of people, their hidden traumas and how they’ve coped or haven’t. ( )
  Misprint | Aug 31, 2020 |
Always find Elizabeth Strout's stories amazing especially her short stories. She has the ability to paint a picture of a slice of time for her subject with minimal words but each word is so well chosen that to say anything more would spoil the story. The people she gives us are so real it is almost like she is writing about someone we know. She achieves this in her short stories by writing about background characters from her other books enabling her to center her short stories in a manner that allows the characters to blossom beyond the confines normally dictated by a short story.

I always look forward to a new Elizabeth Strout book as I know she will give the reader a simple but still complex story that will touch the reader on so many different levels that when they are through reading it they will feel satisfied yet wish she had written more to satisfy our hunger. To me this book is Elizabeth Strout at her best as a short story writer. ( )
  can44okie | Aug 28, 2020 |
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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.
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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.
Right behind it was the last of the day's full light; generously, the colors from the setting sun sprayed upward over the open sky.
Panic, like a large minnow darting upstream, moved back and forth inside him.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others. Here are two sisters: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband while the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. The janitor at the local school has his faith tested in an encounter with an isolated man he has come to help; a grown daughter longs for mother love even as she comes to accept her mother's happiness in a foreign country; and the adult Lucy Barton (the heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the author's celebrated New York Times bestseller) returns to visit her siblings after seventeen years of absence. Reverberating with the deep bonds of family, and the hope that comes with reconciliation, Anything Is Possible again underscores Elizabeth Strout's place as one of America's most respected and cherished authors"--Amazon.com.

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * An unforgettable cast of small-town characters copes with love and loss in this new work of fiction by #1 bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout.

Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others.

Here are two sisters: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband while the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. The janitor at the local school has his faith tested in an encounter with an isolated man he has come to help; a grown daughter longs for mother love even as she comes to accept her mother's happiness in a foreign country; and the adult Lucy Barton (the heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the author's celebrated New York Times bestseller) returns to visit her siblings after seventeen years of absence.

Reverberating with the deep bonds of family, and the hope that comes with reconciliation, Anything Is Possible again underscores Elizabeth Strout's place as one of America's most respected and cherished authors.
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