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Anything Is Possible
     

Anything Is Possible

4.0 6
by Elizabeth Strout
 

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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

Overview

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.

Praise for Anything Is Possible

“When Elizabeth Strout is on her game, is there anybody better? . . . This is a generous, wry book about everyday lives, and Strout crawls so far inside her characters you feel you inhabit them. . . . This is a book that earns its title. Try reading it without tears, or wonder.”USA Today (four stars)

“Readers who loved My Name Is Lucy Barton . . . are in for a real treat. . . . Strout is a master of the story cycle form. . . .  She paints cumulative portraits of the heartache and soul of small-town America by giving each of her characters a turn under her sympathetic spotlight.”—NPR

“These stories return Strout to the core of what she does more magnanimously than anyone else, which is to render quiet portraits of the indignities and disappointments of normal life, and the moments of grace and kindness we are gifted in response. . . . Strout hits the target yet again.”The Washington Post

“In this wise and accomplished book, pain and healing exist in perpetual dependence, like feuding siblings.”The Wall Street Journal

Anything Is Possible confirms Strout as one of our most grace-filled, and graceful, writers.”The Boston Globe

“In Elizabeth Strout’s Anything Is Possible, her stunning follow-up to My Name Is Lucy Barton, a famous author returns to the Midwestern hometown of her childhood, touching off a daisy-chain of stories narrated by those who knew her—memories of trauma and goodwill, resentments small and large, and the ever-widening gulf between haves and have-nots. Strout, always good, just keeps getting better.”Vogue

“If you miss the charmingly eccentric and completely relatable characters from Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout’s best-selling My Name Is Lucy Barton, you’ll be happily reunited with them in Strout’s smart and soulful Anything Is Possible.Elle

“Strout pierces the inner worlds of these characters’ most private behaviors, illuminating the emotional conflicts and pure joy of being human, of finding oneself in the search for the American dream.”NYLON

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Jennifer Senior
Like Olive Kitteridge, Anything Is Possible is really a necklace of short stories about people in a small town, studded with clues about who's connected to whom. (Strout was born to be an omniscient narrator, born to flit and swoop from one crooked perch to the next.) It is most useful to think about Strout's work thematically. The same ideas continually preoccupy her, and her characters often behave in similar ways. They indulge in the petty comforts of gossip, their judgments disguised as concern, their desperation to reassure themselves of their luck—and virtue—disguised as pity. They throb with loneliness and fume with disappointment…Anything Is Possible is certainly more grim than Strout's previous work. It's more audacious, too, and more merciless, daring you to walk away…But the writing is wrenchingly lovely. It almost always is with Strout, whether she's knitting metaphors or summarizing, with agonizing economy, whole episodes of a life…You read Strout, really, for the same reason you listen to a requiem: to experience the beauty in sadness.
The New York Times Book Review - Andrea Barrett
Anything Is Possible might look like a sequel, since it takes place after the action of…My Name Is Lucy Barton, and portrays many of the same characters. But it's actually something far more complex, reaching across space (think of Faulkner's work, or Louise Erdrich's) and through layers of memory. Where the earlier book turned on the crystalline austerity and reserve of its narrative voice, guided by Strout's unerring sense of what Lucy would omit, the new work almost literally undoes the older one. What Lucy omitted, we learn—what Lucy hid?—radically alters our understanding of what Lucy said…Strout's brilliant achievement is to create in one book a character who can give a clear but deeply reserved account of what it's like to be isolated, poor and abused, even as she makes us see the dignity in refusing to dwell on the details. And then, in Anything Is Possible, Strout creates a messier, more richly human version of that character's world, thick with details and even more profound in its rendering of the ways we save, or fail to save, one another.
Publishers Weekly
★ 02/20/2017
In her latest work, Strout achieves new levels of masterful storytelling. Damaged lives can be redeemed but, as she eloquently demonstrates in this powerful, sometimes shocking, often emotionally wrenching novel, the emotional scars can last forever. If some readers felt that Strout’s previous novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton, was too subtle and oblique about Lucy’s hellish childhood, here Strout reveals specific details of the horrible circumstances in which Lucy and her siblings were raised, as recollected by some of the inhabitants of Amgash, Ill., and the surrounding communities. Using the novel-in-stories format of Olive Kitteridge, Strout again proves Tolstoy’s observation that each family is unhappy in its own way. Except for one episode in which Lucy herself comes back for a tortured sibling reunion, she is the absent but omnipresent thread that weaves among the dozen or so characters who are have suffered secret misery and are longing for love and understanding. Some are lucky: one of the five Mumford sisters reunites with her runaway mother in Italy; another, an angry young girl, is suddenly able to see the way to a brighter future. Others, including a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and a rich woman who is complicit in her husband’s depraved behavior survive despite the baggage of tortured memories. “They had grown up on shame; it was the nutrient of their soil,” one character acknowledges. Strout’s prose is pared down, yet rich with implication. It is left for the character in the final episode, Lucy’s cousin Abel, who despite a similarly deprived childhood is now a happy and successful business executive, husband, father, and grandfather, to observe, in what may be his final moments, that “Anything was possible for anyone.” (Apr.)
Library Journal
★ 04/01/2017
In Strout's previous best seller, My Name Is Lucy Barton, the main character eventually escapes her life of fear and poverty by leaving town. This title follows some of the people who continue to live in the town Lucy fled, which has more than its share of poverty, domestic unhappiness, violence, and abuse. Those who were left behind continue on in their daily struggles, some faring better than others. Each chapter provides a brief look at one or two of those individuals, building a web of relationships and connections among the community and, tangentially, Lucy. The school janitor, the high school guidance counselor, Lucy's brother and sister, and several others provide insights into the different interpretations of events, showing the range of human response that is possible in the face of challenges. VERDICT With her latest work, Pulitzer Prize winner Strout (for Olive Kitteridge) crafts a deep and complex inside view of the hearts and minds of individuals who make up a community. [See Prepub Alert, 11/21/16.]—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-12-27
A radiant collection of stories linked to Strout's previous novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016, etc.), but moving beyond its first-person narration to limn small-town life from multiple perspectives.Lucy is long gone from Amgash, Illinois, but her absence looms large; now that she's a well-known author, the fact that her desperately poor family was despised and outcast has become an uncomfortable memory for the locals, including her damaged brother, Pete, and resentful sister, Vicky. Strout stakes out the collection's moral terrain in its first story, "The Sign." Tommy Guptill, who was kind to Lucy when she was a girl, still drops by the ramshackle Barton house to check on Pete even though it's quite likely that Pete's father was responsible for the fire that destroyed Tommy's dairy farm and reduced him to taking a job as a school janitor. Tommy is an extraordinarily good man who took the calamitous fire as a spiritual lesson in what was truly important and has lived by it ever since. Patty Nicely, protagonist of "Windmills," is another genuinely decent person who returns kindness for cruelty from Vicky's angry daughter, Lila, who, in addition to viciously insulting Patty, states the jaundiced town wisdom about Lucy: "She thinks she's better than any of us." That isn't so, we see in the story in which Lucy finally visits home ("Sister"), but there are plenty of mean-spirited people in Amgash who like to think so; it excuses their own various forms of uncaring. Class prejudice remains one of Strout's enduring themes, along with the complex, fraught bonds of family across the generations, and she investigates both with tender yet tough-minded compassion for even the most repulsive characters (Patty's nasty sister, Linda, and her predatory husband, Jay, in the collection's creepiest story, "Cracked"). The epic scope within seemingly modest confines recalls Strout's Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge (2008), and her ability to discern vulnerabilities buried beneath bad behavior is as acute as ever. Another powerful examination of painfully human ambiguities and ambivalences—this gifted writer just keeps getting better.
From the Publisher
“When Elizabeth Strout is on her game, is there anybody better? . . . This is a generous, wry book about everyday lives, and Strout crawls so far inside her characters you feel you inhabit them. . . . This is a book that earns its title. Try reading it without tears, or wonder.”USA Today (four stars)

“Readers who loved My Name Is Lucy Barton . . . are in for a real treat. . . . Strout is a master of the story cycle form. . . .  She paints cumulative portraits of the heartache and soul of small-town America by giving each of her characters a turn under her sympathetic spotlight.”—NPR

“These stories return Strout to the core of what she does more magnanimously than anyone else, which is to render quiet portraits of the indignities and disappointments of normal life, and the moments of grace and kindness we are gifted in response. . . . Strout hits the target yet again.”The Washington Post

“In this wise and accomplished book, pain and healing exist in perpetual dependence, like feuding siblings.”The Wall Street Journal

Anything Is Possible confirms Strout as one of our most grace-filled, and graceful, writers.”The Boston Globe

“Strout really can write you into a world until you feel you are there with her. . . . This is her genius. . . . She is also simply superb at writing about relationships.”The Times (UK)

Anything Is Possible keenly draws a portrait of a small town where options are few, where everyone’s business is everyone’s business, and where verdicts rendered while young follow you your whole life. . . . It joins a vast genre, and elevates it.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Neither novel nor linked story collection strikes me as adequate terms to describe this book’s ingenious structure. . . . Strout’s sentence style fits these Midwestern folks and tales: straightforward while also seeming effortlessly lyrical, seeded both with humor and bitterness like many of our days.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“In Elizabeth Strout’s Anything Is Possible, her stunning follow-up to My Name Is Lucy Barton, a famous author returns to the Midwestern hometown of her childhood, touching off a daisy-chain of stories narrated by those who knew her—memories of trauma and goodwill, resentments small and large, and the ever-widening gulf between haves and have-nots. Strout, always good, just keeps getting better.”Vogue

“Full of searing insight into the darkest corners of the human spirit . . . Anything Is Possible is both sweeping in scope and incredibly introspective. That delicate balance is what makes its content so sharp and compulsively readable. . . . Strout’s winning formula . . . has succeeded once again. With assuredness, compassion and utmost grace, her words and characters remind us that in life anything is actually possible.”San Francisco Chronicle
 
Anything Is Possible is a stunner. It is unblinking in its psychological portrayals of a cast of characters raised in socially impaired households in a small, Northern Illinois community. . . . A score of major and minor characters are drawn in such rich, crisp detail that they sear the heart. . . . Strout’s gifts as a storyteller are evocative of Edward Hopper’s captured moments of American life. Like Hopper, in Anything Is Possible, Strout leaves impressions you’ll not soon forget.”Portland Press Herald

“While we recommend everything by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer—like, say her recent book My Name Is Lucy Barton—this novel, which explores life’s complexities through interconnected stores, stands on its own. . . . It’s a joy to read a modern master doing her thing.”Marie Claire

“If you miss the charmingly eccentric and completely relatable characters from Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout’s best-selling My Name Is Lucy Barton, you’ll be happily reunited with them in Strout’s smart and soulful Anything Is Possible.Elle

“Strout pierces the inner worlds of these characters’ most private behaviors, illuminating the emotional conflicts and pure joy of being human, of finding oneself in the search for the American dream.”NYLON

“We devoured Strout’s last novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton, and her latest—which is loosely linked to Lucy Barton—is no different. Told from multiple points of view, it’s about residents of a small town in Illinois struggling with the most relatable and quotidian problems . . . you’ll swear you know these characters. (In fact, it reminds us a bit of another of Strout’s masterpieces, the excellent Olive Kitteridge.)”—PureWow

“Amgash, Illinois, will be familiar to Elizabeth Strout fans as the hometown of the protagonist of her 2016 novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton. In Anything Is Possible . . . Lucy’s legend looms large . . . but no prior reading is required to enjoy Strout’s powerful writing and empathy.”Real Simple

“In her latest work, Strout achieves new levels of masterful storytelling.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The epic scope within seemingly modest confines recalls Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge, and her ability to discern vulnerabilities buried beneath bad behavior is as acute as ever. Another powerful examination of painfully human ambiguities and ambivalences—this gifted writer just keeps getting better.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“With her latest work, Pulitzer Prize winner Strout (for Olive Kitteridge) crafts a deep and complex inside view of the hearts and minds of individuals who make up a community.”Library Journal (starred review)

“It’s hard to believe that a year after the astonishing My Name Is Lucy Barton Elizabeth Strout could bring us another book that is by every measure its equal, but what Strout proves to us again and again is that where she’s concerned, anything is possible. This book, this writer, are magnificent.”—Ann Patchett

Praise for Elizabeth Strout’s My Name Is Lucy Barton

“There is not a scintilla of sentimentality in this exquisite novel. Instead, in its careful words and vibrating silences, My Name Is Lucy Barton offers us a rare wealth of emotion, from darkest suffering to . . . simple joy.”The New York Times Book Review

“Spectacular . . . My Name Is Lucy Barton is smart and cagey in every way. It is both a book of withholdings and a book of great openness and wisdom. . . . [Strout] is in supreme and magnificent command of this novel at all times.”The Washington Post

My Name Is Lucy Barton is a short novel about love, particularly the complicated love between mothers and daughters, but also simpler, more sudden bonds. . . . It evokes these connections in a style so spare, so pure and so profound the book almost seems to be a kind of scripture or sutra, if a very down-to-earth and unpretentious one.”Newsday

“A quiet, sublimely merciful contemporary novel about love, yearning, and resilience in a family damaged beyond words.”The Boston Globe

“Sensitive, deceptively simple . . . It is Lucy’s gentle honesty, complex relationship with her husband, and nuanced response to her mother’s shortcomings that make this novel so subtly powerful. . . . My Name Is Lucy Barton—like all of Strout’s fiction—is more complex than it first appears, and all the more emotionally persuasive for it.”San Francisco Chronicle

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812989403
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/25/2017
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
170
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Sign

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 many years ago now, but at night Tommy still sometimes woke with the fear he had felt the night his dairy farm burned to the ground. The house had burned to the ground as well; the wind had sent sparks onto the house, which was not far from the barns. It had been his fault—­he always thought it was his fault—­because he had not checked that night on the milking machines to make sure they had been turned off properly, and this is where the fire started. Once it started, it ripped with a fury over the whole place. They lost everything, except for the brass frame to the living room mirror, which he came upon in the rubble the next day, and he left it where it was. A collection was taken up: For a number of weeks his kids went to school in the clothes of their classmates, until he could gather himself and the little money he had; he sold the land to the neighboring farmer, but it did not bring much money in. Then he and his wife, a short pretty woman named Shirley, bought new clothes, and he bought a house as well, Shirley keeping her spirits up admirably as all this was going on. They’d had to buy a house in Amgash, which was a run-­down town, and his kids went to school there instead of in Carlisle, where they had been able to go to school before, his farm being just on the line dividing the two towns. Tommy took a job as the janitor in the Amgash school system; the steadiness of the job appealed to him, and he could never go to work on someone else’s farm, he did not have the stomach for that. He was thirty-­five years old at the time.

The kids were grown now, with kids of their own who were also grown, and he and Shirley still lived in their small house; she had planted flowers around it, which was unusual in that town. Tommy had worried a good deal about his children at the time of the fire; they had gone from having their home be a place that class trips came to—­each year in spring the fifth-­grade class from Carlisle would make a day of it, eating their lunches out beside the barns on the wooden tables there, then tromping through the barns watching the men milking the cows, the white foamy stuff going up and over them in the clear plastic pipes—­to having to see their father as the man who pushed the broom over the “magic dust” that got tossed over the throw-­up of some kid who had been sick in the hallways, Tommy wearing his gray pants and a white shirt that had Tommy stitched on it in red.

Well. They had all lived through it.

This morning Tommy drove slowly to the town of Carlisle for errands; it was a sunny Saturday in May, and his wife’s eighty-­second birthday was just a few days away. All around him were open fields, the corn newly planted, and the soybeans too. A number of fields were still brown, as they’d been plowed under for their planting, but mostly there was the high blue sky, with a few white clouds scattered near the horizon. He drove past the sign on the road that led down to the Barton home; it still said SEWING AND ALTERATIONS, even though the woman, Lydia Barton, who did the sewing and alterations had died many years ago. The Barton family had been outcasts, even in a town like Amgash, their extreme poverty and strangeness making this so. The oldest child, a man named Pete, lived alone there now, the middle child was two towns away, and the youngest, Lucy Barton, had fled many years ago, and had ended up living in New York City. Tommy had spent time thinking of Lucy. All those years she had lingered after school, alone in a classroom, from fourth grade right up to her senior year in high school; it had taken her a few years to even look him in the eye.

But now Tommy was driving past the area where his farm had been—­these days it was all fields, not a sign of the farm was left—­and he thought, as he often thought, about his life back then. It had been a good life, but he did not regret the things that had happened. It was not Tommy’s nature to regret things, and on the night of the fire—­in the midst of his galloping fear—­he understood that all that mattered in this world were his wife and his children, and he thought that people lived their whole lives not knowing this as sharply and constantly as he did. Privately, he thought of the fire as a sign from God to keep this gift tightly to him. Privately, because he did not want to be thought of as a man who made up excuses for a tragedy; and he did not want anyone—­not even his dearly beloved wife—­to think he would do this. But he had felt that night, while his wife kept the children over by the road—­he had rushed them from the house when he saw that the barn was on fire—­as he watched the enormous flames flying into the nighttime sky, then heard the terrible screaming sounds of the cows as they died, he had felt many things, but it was just as the roof of his house crashed in, fell into the house itself, right into their bedrooms and the living room below with all the photos of the children and his parents, as he saw this happen he had felt—­undeniably—­what he could only think was the presence of God, and he understood why angels had always been portrayed as having wings, because there had been a sensation of that—­of a rushing sound, or not even a sound, and then it was as though God, who had no face, but was God, pressed up against him and conveyed to him without words—­so briefly, so fleetingly—­some message that Tommy understood to be: It’s all right, Tommy. And then Tommy had understood that it was all right. It was beyond his understanding, but it was all right. And it had been. He often thought that his children had become more compassionate as a result of having to go to school with kids who were poor, and not from homes like the one they had first known. He had felt the presence of God since, at times, as though a golden color was very near to him, but he never again felt visited by God as he had felt that night, and he knew too well what people would make of it, and this is why he would keep it to himself until his dying day—­the sign from God.

Still, on a spring morning as this one was, the smell of the soil brought back to him the smells of the cows, the moisture of their nostrils, the warmth of their bellies, and his barns—­he had had two barns—­and he let his mind roll over pieces of scenes that came to him. Perhaps because he had just passed the Barton place he thought of the man, Ken Barton, who had been the father of those poor, sad children, and who had worked on and off for Tommy, and then he thought—­as he more often did—­of Lucy, who had left for college and then ended up in New York City. She had become a writer.

Lucy Barton.

Driving, Tommy shook his head slightly. Tommy knew many things as a result of being the janitor in that school more than thirty years; he knew of girls’ pregnancies and drunken mothers and cheating spouses, for he overheard these things talked about by the students in their small huddles by the bathrooms, or near the cafeteria; in many ways he was invisible, he understood that. But Lucy Barton had troubled him the most. She and her sister, Vicky, and her brother, Pete, had been viciously scorned by the other kids, and by some of the teachers too. Yet because Lucy stayed after school so often for so many years he felt—­though she seldom spoke—­that he knew her the best. One time when she was in the fourth grade, it was his first year working there, he had opened the door to a classroom and found her lying on three chairs pushed together, over near the radiators, her coat as a blanket, fast asleep. He had stared at her, watching her chest move slightly up and down, seen the dark circles beneath her eyes, her eyelashes spread like tiny twinkling stars, for her eyelids had been moist as though she had been weeping before she slept, and then he backed out slowly, quietly as he could; it had felt almost unseemly to come upon her like that.

But one time—­he remembered this now—­she must have been in junior high school, and he’d walked into the classroom and she was drawing on the blackboard with chalk. She stopped as soon as he stepped inside the room. “You go ahead,” he said. On the board was a drawing of a vine with many small leaves. Lucy moved away from the blackboard, then she suddenly spoke to him. “I broke the chalk,” she said. Tommy told her that was fine. “I did it on purpose,” she said, and there was a tiny glint of a smile before she looked away. “On purpose?” he asked, and she nodded, again with the tiny smile. So he went and picked up a piece of chalk, a full stick of it, and he snapped it in half and winked at her. In his memory she had almost giggled. “You drew that?” he asked, pointing to the vine with the small leaves. And she shrugged then and turned away. But usually, she was just sitting at a desk and reading, or doing her homework, he could see that she was doing that.

He pulled up to a stop sign now, and said the words aloud to himself quietly, “Lucy, Lucy, Lucy B. Where did you go to, how did you flee?”

He knew how. In the spring of her senior year, he had seen her in the hallway after school, and she had said to him, so suddenly open-­faced, her eyes big, “Mr. Guptill, I’m going to college!” And he had said, “Oh, Lucy. That’s wonderful.” She had thrown her arms around him; she would not let go, and so he hugged her back. He always remembered that hug, because she had been so thin; he could feel her bones and her small breasts, and because he wondered later how much—­how little—­that girl had ever been hugged.

Tommy pulled away from the stop sign and drove into the town; right there beyond was a parking space. Tommy pulled in to it, got out of his car, and squinted in the sunshine. “Tommy Guptill,” shouted a man, and, turning, Tommy saw Griff Johnson walking toward him with his characteristic limp, for Griff had one leg that was shorter than the other, and even his built-­up shoe could not keep him from limping. Griff had an arm out, ready to shake hands. “Griffith,” said Tommy, and they pumped their arms for a long time, while cars drove slowly past them down Main Street. Griff was the insurance man here in town, and he had been awfully good to Tommy; learning that Tommy had not insured his farm for its worth, Griff had said, “I met you too late,” which was true. But Griff, with his warm face, and big belly now, continued to be good to Tommy. In fact, Tommy did not know anyone—­he thought—­who was not good to him. As a breeze moved around them, they spoke of their children and grandchildren; Griff had a grandson who was on drugs, which Tommy thought was very sad, and he just listened and nodded, glancing up at the trees that lined Main Street, their leaves so young and bright green, and then he listened about another grandson who was in medical school now, and Tommy said, “Hey, that’s just great, good for him,” and they clapped hands on each other’s shoulders and moved on.

In the dress shop, with its bell that announced his entrance, was Marilyn Macauley, trying on a dress. “Tommy, what brings you in here?” Marilyn was thinking of getting the dress for her granddaughter’s baptism a few Sundays from now, she said, and she tugged on the side of it; it was beige with swirling red roses; she was without her shoes, standing in just her stockings. She said that it was an extravagance to buy a new dress for such a thing, but that she felt like it. Tommy—­who had known Marilyn for years, first when she was in high school as a student in Amgash—­saw her embarrassment, and he said he didn’t think it was an extravagance at all. Then he said, “When you have a chance, Marilyn, can you help me find something for my wife?” He saw her become efficient then, and she said yes, she certainly would, and she went into the changing room and came back out in her regular clothes, a black skirt and a blue sweater, with her flat black shoes on, and right away she took Tommy over to the scarves. “Here,” she said, pulling out a red scarf that had a design with gold threads running through it. Tommy held it, but picked up a flowery scarf with his other hand. “Maybe this,” he said. And Marilyn said, “Yes, that looks like Shirley,” and then Tommy understood that Marilyn liked the red scarf herself but would never allow herself to buy it. Marilyn, that first year Tommy worked as a janitor, had been a lovely girl, saying “Hi, Mr. Guptill!” whenever she saw him, and now she had become an older woman, nervous, thin, her face pinched. Tommy thought what other people thought, it was because her husband had been in Vietnam and had never afterward been the same; Tommy would see Charlie Macauley around town, and he always looked so far away, the poor man, and poor Marilyn too. So Tommy held the red scarf with the gold threads for a minute as though considering it, then said, “I think you’re right, this one looks more like Shirley,” and took the flowery one to the register. He thanked Marilyn for her help.

“I think she’ll love it,” Marilyn said, and Tommy said he was sure she would.

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Strout is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge; the #1 New York Times bestseller My Name Is Lucy Barton; The Burgess Boys, a New York Times bestseller; Abide with Me, a national bestseller and Book Sense pick; and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker and O: The Oprah Magazine. Elizabeth Strout lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Brooklyn, New York
Date of Birth:
January 6, 1956
Place of Birth:
Portland, Maine
Education:
B.A., Bates College, 1977; J.D., Syracuse College of Law, 1982
Website:
http://www.elizabethstrout.com

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Anything Is Possible 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
SheTreadsSoftly 24 days ago
Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout is a very highly recommended transcendent postscript to My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016). This is a superb novel. Anything Is Possible returns us to Amgash, Illinois, and explores the stories found in the lives of others who lived there and the connections they have to each other and Lucy. This exquisite novel is told through a series of chapters that are individual stories which capture the fundamental essence of people's lives (the same approach she took in Olive Kitteridge). Strout manages to capture the whole spectrum of human emotions across the years in these perfect individual but interconnected vignettes. The themes are timeless, including: the search for love and happiness; self-respect; faith; the bonds of families; divorce and infidelity; the gulf between poverty and privilege; violence and abuse; The individual stories together to create a portrait of a community and those who had ties to it. Not all the stories are completely sad, but they all have a melancholy undertone as the characters have faced the complexities of life and grown from their experiences (or not). The writing is extraordinary, impeccable, and... just perfect. The characters and setting in each story are finely drawn and eloquently described, even when the lives are damaged and struggling. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House.
Deb-Krenzer 29 days ago
I did not read "My Name is Lucy Barton" but I want to now. I got a glimpse into her life from this book but not a lot. This book was about the characters that were in Lucy Barton's hometown. They were quite the crew. The majority of the book was about and written from Tom the janitor's point of view. He is the one to share what he saw of Lucy while she was growing up. There is also Lucy's remaining family, her brother and her sister. You get a real feel for what life was like growing up in that house when the three of them get together when Lucy, on a book tour, visits the town she left so long ago. Definitely a sad read, but I did enjoy it. Thanks to Random House for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Anonymous 14 days ago
Poignant. The stories are cleverly linked.
Anonymous 14 days ago
I love reading books by Strout. Her use of words connects so well with the characters in her stories. I would suggest you read My Name is Lucy Barton before you read this book. The book is a collection of stories about characters from Lucy Barton. Each character is somehow connected. I especially enjoyed the story when Lucy reconnects with her siblings, Elizabeth Strout is a wonderful writer.
Anonymous 29 days ago
Loved it!
Anonymous 17 days ago
Mhf