NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An unforgettable cast of small-town characters copes with love and loss in this “compulsively readable” (San Francisco Chronicle) novel from #1 bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout
“This book, this writer, are magnificent.”—Ann Patchett
Winner of The Story Prize • A Washington Post and New York Times Notable Book • One of USA Today’s top 10 books of the year
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 aretwo 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.
Elizabeth Strout is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Olive Kitteridge, winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Olive, Again, an Oprah’s Book Club pick; Anything Is Possible, winner of the Story Prize; My Name is Lucy Barton, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize; The Burgess Boys, named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and NPR; Abide with Me, a national bestseller; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the International Dublin Literary Award, and the Orange Prize. 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.
Brooklyn, New York
Date of Birth:
January 6, 1956
Place of Birth:
B.A., Bates College, 1977; J.D., Syracuse College of Law, 1982
1. Why do you think Elizabeth Strout chose to structure Anything Is Possible as a novel in the form of linked stories? How would your understanding of the book change if it had been written instead as a novel with a single narrative?
2. How does the town of Amgash feature in the text? How does it shape the lives of its residents? If Amgash had its own personality, how would you characterize it?
3. The past plays a strong role in these stories, and many of the characters find themselves struggling to reconcile with it. What are the various ways in which the past shapes them? How do they attempt to deal with their own pasts, and those of the people around them?
4. Strout deals with many different types of family relationships in the book—between parents and children, between spouses, among siblings. How are these different types of relationships treated? What are the differences and similarities in the ways the characters navigate these relationships? Which ones resonated most with you, and why?
5. An emotion that Strout addresses throughout Anything Is Possible is shame. What are the different roles shame plays for the various characters in these stories? How are they motivated, propelled, or hindered by shame? What effects does shame have on these characters’ sense of self and their relationships with others?
6. Lucy Barton’s legend looms large in Amgash. How do we perceive her through the eyes of the characters in each of these stories? How do these impressions of her differ? When Lucy makes an appearance in “Sister,” did your perception of her change as Strout reveals the impact of Lucy’s absence on her siblings?
7. Strout portrays wealth and/or poverty through the changing circumstances of several of her characters: Linda Peterson-Cornell; Abel Blaine; Abel’s sister, Dottie; Tommy Barton and his sister Vicky. How do these characters react to their economic circumstances? How do these circumstances shape their relationships to those around them, and how they are perceived?
8. Many of the characters in these stories overcome adverse circumstances to experience moments of grace—Abel Blaine, Patty Nicely, and Angelina Mumford, for example. How do these moments of grace present themselves? Why do you think Strout decided to give her characters these opportunities for grace? How did this shape your understanding of these stories and characters?
9. Was there a character or story that affected you more than the others? Which, and why?
10. How did you interpret Strout’s choice of Anything Is Possible as a title, and how do you think this concept resonated with Abel Blaine in the last chapter of the book?