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Oh William!

by Elizabeth Strout

Series: Lucy Barton (3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9778118,419 (3.96)93
Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout explores the mysteries of marriage and the secrets we keep, as a former couple reckons with where they've come from--and what they've left behind.  "Elizabeth Strout is one of my very favorite writers, so the fact that Oh William! may well be my favorite of her books is a mathematical equation for joy. The depth, complexity, and love contained in these pages is a miraculous achievement."--Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House I would like to say a few things about my first husband, William.  Lucy Barton is a writer, but her ex-husband, William, remains a hard man to read. William, she confesses, has always been a mystery to me. Another mystery is why the two have remained connected after all these years. They just are.  So Lucy is both surprised and not surprised when William asks her to join him on a trip to investigate a recently uncovered family secret--one of those secrets that rearrange everything we think we know about the people closest to us. What happens next is nothing less than another example of what Hilary Mantel has called Elizabeth Strout's "perfect attunement to the human condition." There are fears and insecurities, simple joys and acts of tenderness, and revelations about affairs and other spouses, parents and their children. On every page of this exquisite novel we learn more about the quiet forces that hold us together--even after we've grown apart.  At the heart of this story is the indomitable voice of Lucy Barton, who offers a profound, lasting reflection on the very nature of existence. "This is the way of life," Lucy says: "the many things we do not know until it is too late."… (more)
  1. 00
    Jack by Marilynne Robinson (aprille)
    aprille: Both Strout and Robinson present flawed characters with love and generosity.
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Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
Slow paced, going nowhere, the narrator is introspective (or is it self-absorbed?) In the end I didn’t care much for any of the characters. I also felt many were left undefined. I would like to have known Lois better and maybe Estelle as well. What about Bridgit? The author lets you know all you can know about Lucy, but so little about those she engages with.
I felt like the whole book was a big sigh…Oh William, Oh Lucy, Oh Everyone Do we need to look at everyone’s loneliness all the time to know that everyone is lonely in one way or another?

Ed. A couple weeks out and the book is settling in for me. I am now open to going forward to Lucy By the Sea. I want to like this author's works so maybe it was wrong time for me. ( )
  beebeereads | Nov 25, 2022 |
“This is the way of life: the many things we do not know until it is too late.”

This is the third book of the Amgash, IL series which originated with the departure of Lucy Barton from the run down town and onto pursue her dreams. Lucy receives a college scholarship and eventually becomes an accomplished author. In this book, Lucy is older and writes this book as if taking notes in a journal, reflecting on her life, marriages, daughters and in particular, William Gebhardt her first husband who is 6 years older. At this time Lucy and William are both around 70 years old having made successful careers and remarrying. Lucy met William when she moved to attend college as he worked in a lab as parasitologist and taught microbiology at NYU. When they married, Lucy devoted herself to being a loving, caring mother to her two daughters. She wanted to give them all the support and attention she craved as a child. As the years past, Lucy realizes that she needs to put herself first and rekindles her passion to become a writer.

Although they divorced, Lucy and William continued to have a symbiotic relationship that only two people who know each other so well can have. They seemed to experience many life events relying on each other for support and advice. Lucy recalls how William provided comfort when her second husband, David Abramson, died. She remembers his second wife, Joanne, because he had been having an affair with her for 6 years before the divorce. William married her a year after their divorce. Then, William married Estelle, his third wife who is 22 years younger and they had a daughter Bridget together.

Lucy and William have come to rely on each other through the years. William has been tormented over the years with night terrors about his mother, Catherine. Another memory which lingers relates to Germany and how his father died when he was 14 yo following surgery to remove an intestinal polyp. Although he didn’t believe in the afterlife, he often thinks about death and his convoluted family history. They have an open, honest dialogue about the course of life and the comfort of the “familiar” place were most married people end up after years of marriage. Ironically, they seem to know each other’s quirks and routines but acknowledge that sometimes people end up with kind and thoughtful people. But the routines and familiar are often superficial with people not fully understanding the depths of the other person. ( )
  marquis784 | Nov 16, 2022 |
I would love to have given this Five Stars because I have LOVED all her other books but sorry, this was a dud. And the style was very annoying. ( )
  PrueGallagher | Nov 6, 2022 |
In this third book in the Amgash series, protagonist Lucy Barton has recently gone through the death of her second husband, David. She relates the story of her marriages, focused on her first husband, William Gerhardt, father of her two grown daughters. Lucy, age sixty-three, is an accomplished writer. Her seventy-one-year-old ex-husband is a research scientist. William’s young third wife, Estelle, has recently left him and taken their ten-year-old daughter with her. William makes a discovery concerning a family secret and asks Lucy to accompany him to Maine. Lucy has maintained a good relationship with William and welcomes the distraction from her grief.

The slim plot of this book is secondary to the characters. It is told in first person by Lucy. As in many of Strout’s books, it is filled with observations on life, and how people relate to each other. Lucy engages in self-analysis, attempting to understand her deep attachment to her ex-husband despite some of the significant issues they had during their marriage. Lucy’s introspections wander to her abusive parents, impoverished childhood, and loneliness. As Lucy states, “on some very fundamental level, I feel invisible in this world."

I recommend reading the first book, My Name Is Lucy Barton, prior to Oh William. The second book, Anything Is Possible, consisting of interrelated short stories, is supplementary and, in my opinion, not essential to appreciate the Lucy Barton story. This is my favorite of the three. It will appeal to those who enjoy quiet books about interpersonal connections.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Ms. Strout never lets me down. What a joy to read about this relationship, one we rarely see represented anywhere, between loving and supportive ex-spouses/co-parents of adult children. And through that relationship we learn so much about so many other relationships. We see the contentment of Lucy's relationship with her second husband, recently deceased. We see the joyful relationship Lucy shares with her daughters and the complicated relationship with her late mother-in-law, who understood Lucy even more than she had previously realized. We ride alongside Lucy as she continues to reckon with her horrible childhood and as she begins to give herself credit for the successful life she built having come from dirt. Also, we have an interesting adventure with Lucy and ex-husband William. Strout writes gentle stories about non-gentle things. Here we look at grief of several types stemming the loss of a parent, a spouse, a career, a dream of parenting, and of the illusions that form parts of our identities. Strout addresses the corrosive effect of secrets held and revealed, and the danger of assumption. She sees and understands people in a way few authors (few humans) really do. I learn from her with every book and I treasure the time I spend with her.

If you have not read the earlier Lucy books, or at very least the first, My Name is Lucy Barton, I would say this is not the place to start. I think it might work as a stand-alone, but I expect you will get about 50% of the pleasure and power of this book without the backstory. With the backstory, it was just about perfect. ( )
1 vote Narshkite | Oct 3, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
Dedication
This book is dedicated to my husband,
                  Jim Tirrney
And to anyone who needs it—-this is for you
First words
I would like to say a few things about my first husband, William.
Quotations
What a strange thing life is.
This is the way of life: the many things we do not know until it is too late.
I turned and I said, "How are your night terrors these days, William?"
William opened his hand and said, "They're gone." Then he added, "My life got worse, so they stopped."
Mommy, I cried inside myself, Mommy, I am so frightened!
And the nice mother I have made up over the years answered: Yes, I know.
If you have not been there, you cannot know.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout explores the mysteries of marriage and the secrets we keep, as a former couple reckons with where they've come from--and what they've left behind.  "Elizabeth Strout is one of my very favorite writers, so the fact that Oh William! may well be my favorite of her books is a mathematical equation for joy. The depth, complexity, and love contained in these pages is a miraculous achievement."--Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House I would like to say a few things about my first husband, William.  Lucy Barton is a writer, but her ex-husband, William, remains a hard man to read. William, she confesses, has always been a mystery to me. Another mystery is why the two have remained connected after all these years. They just are.  So Lucy is both surprised and not surprised when William asks her to join him on a trip to investigate a recently uncovered family secret--one of those secrets that rearrange everything we think we know about the people closest to us. What happens next is nothing less than another example of what Hilary Mantel has called Elizabeth Strout's "perfect attunement to the human condition." There are fears and insecurities, simple joys and acts of tenderness, and revelations about affairs and other spouses, parents and their children. On every page of this exquisite novel we learn more about the quiet forces that hold us together--even after we've grown apart.  At the heart of this story is the indomitable voice of Lucy Barton, who offers a profound, lasting reflection on the very nature of existence. "This is the way of life," Lucy says: "the many things we do not know until it is too late."

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