2017 Story Prize Winner
“As I was writing My Name Is Lucy Barton,” Strout says, “it came to me that all the characters Lucy and her mother talked about had their own stories—of course!—and so the unfolding of their lives became tremendously important to me.” Here, among others, are the “Pretty Nicely Girls,” now adults: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband, the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. Tommy, the janitor at the local high school, has his faith tested in an encounter with an emotionally isolated man he has come to help; a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD discovers unexpected solace in the company of a lonely innkeeper; and Lucy Barton’s sister, Vicky, struggling with feelings of abandonment and jealousy, nonetheless comes to Lucy’s aid, ratifying the deepest bonds of family.
With the stylistic brilliance and subtle power that distinguish the work of this great writer, Elizabeth Strout has created another transcendent work of fiction, with characters who will live in readers’ imaginations long after the final page is turned.
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
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.20(d)|
About 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.
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
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "Anything Is Possible"
Copyright © 2017 Elizabeth Strout.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Sign 3
The Hit-Thumb Theory 92
Mississippi Mary 115
Dottie's Bed & Breakfast 181
Reading Group Guide
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?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Okay, somewhat depressing , but each individual story grabbed my attention from the first line . A beautifully crafted novel . Enjoyed it even more than Lucy Barton. ___________
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.
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.
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.
This book is depressing. I did not read the Lucy Barton book first. It may have made it easier to follow how these poor families were connected. I do not recommend this book.
Interesting stories. ~*~LEB~*~
Loved this book and highly recommend it. Beautifully written! She is a wonderful writer.
Very few likeable characters. Too many characters to be develop each one fully, and very little to connect them other than the town. Made it 2/3 through then realized I didn't care how it ended.
I really don’t know how to do an overview for this read. This is a tale which is more about a small town and its myriad of people. There are a good many characters and it is disjointed in places. But the stories surrounding each of these players keep you moving along and wanting to know more. The characters each have their own hang-ups and personal issues. Each one struggling to over come, well, life! The novel doesn’t have a main character unless it is Lucy Barton but, she has a minor role. I probably would have enjoyed this book more if I had read My Name is Lucy Barton first. I have it in my TBR pile. Just have not picked it up yet. I did not realize this novel was a sequel, or contained the same characters. However, no one writes a story quite like Elizabeth Strout. I love how she weaves love of friends and family along with pain, loss and sometimes abuse. She creates stories impossible to forget and the tales stay with you long after the book is finished. I received this novel from Netgalley for a honest review.
Poignant. The stories are cleverly linked.