My Name Is Lucy Barton

My Name Is Lucy Barton

by Elizabeth Strout


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My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE • A simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the tender relationship between mother and daughter in this extraordinary novel by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys.

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

Praise for 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—‘I was so happy. Oh, I was happy’—simple joy.”—Claire Messud, The New York Times Book Review

“Spectacular . . . 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.”—Lily King, The Washington Post
“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.”—Marion Winik, Newsday
“Potent with distilled emotion. Without a hint of self-pity, Strout captures the ache of loneliness we all feel sometimes.”Time

“An aching, illuminating look at mother-daughter devotion.”People

“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. . . . [It’s] more complex than it first appears, and all the more emotionally persuasive for it.”San Francisco Chronicle

“Strout maps the complex terrain of human relationships by focusing on that which is often unspoken and only implied. . . . A powerful addition to Strout’s body of work.”The Seattle Times

“Impressionistic and haunting . . . [Strout] reminds us of the power of our stories—and our ability to transcend our troubled narratives.”Miami Herald

“Writing of this quality comes from a commitment to listening, from a perfect attunement to the human condition, from an attention to reality so exact that it goes beyond a skill and becomes a virtue.”—Hilary Mantel

“Magnificent.”—Ann Patchett

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400067695
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/12/2016
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 631,863
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Strout is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge, as well as 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.


Brooklyn, New York

Date of Birth:

January 6, 1956

Place of Birth:

Portland, Maine


B.A., Bates College, 1977; J.D., Syracuse College of Law, 1982

Read an Excerpt

There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks. This was in New York City, and at night a view of the Chrysler Building, with its geometric brilliance of lights, was directly visible from my bed. During the day, the building’s beauty receded, and gradually it became simply one more large structure against a blue sky, and all the city’s buildings seemed remote, silent, far away. It was May, and then June, and I remember how I would stand and look out the window at the sidewalk below and watch the young women—my age—in their spring clothes, out on their lunch breaks; I could see their heads moving in conversation, their blouses rippling in the breeze. I thought how when I got out of the hospital I would never again walk down the sidewalk without giving thanks for being one of those people, and for many years I did that—I would remember the view from the hospital window and be glad for the sidewalk I was walking on.

To begin with, it was a simple story: I had gone into the hospital to have my appendix out. After two days they gave me food, but I couldn’t keep it down. And then a fever arrived. No one could isolate any bacteria or figure out what had gone wrong. No one ever did. I took fluids through one IV, and antibiotics came through another. They were attached to a metal pole on wobbly wheels that I pushed around with me, but I got tired easily. Toward the beginning of July, whatever problem had taken hold of me went away. But until then I was in a very strange state—a literally feverish waiting—and I really agonized. I had a husband and two small daughters at home; I missed my girls terribly, and I worried about them so much I was afraid it was making me sicker. When my doctor, to whom I felt a deep attachment—he was a jowly-faced Jewish man who wore such a gentle sadness on his shoulders, whose grandparents and three aunts, I heard him tell a nurse, had been killed in the camps, and who had a wife and four grown children here in New York City—this lovely man, I think, felt sorry for me, and saw to it that my girls—they were five and six—could visit me if they had no illnesses. They were brought into my room by a family friend, and I saw how their little faces were dirty, and so was their hair, and I pushed my IV apparatus into the shower with them, but they cried out, “Mommy, you’re so skinny!” They were really frightened. They sat with me on the bed while I dried their hair with a towel, and then they drew pictures, but with apprehension, meaning that they did not interrupt themselves every minute by saying, “Mommy, Mommy, do you like this? Mommy, look at the dress of my fairy princess!” They said very little, the younger one especially seemed unable to speak, and when I put my arms around her, I saw her lower lip thrust out and her chin tremble; she was a tiny thing, trying so hard to be brave. When they left I did not look out the window to watch them walk away with my friend who had brought them, and who had no children of her own.

My husband, naturally, was busy running the household and also busy with his job, and he didn’t often have a chance to visit me. He had told me when we met that he hated hospitals—his father had died in one when he was fourteen—and I saw now that he meant this. In the first room I had been assigned was an old woman dying next to me; she kept calling out for help—it was striking to me how uncaring the nurses were, as she cried that she was dying. My husband could not stand it—he could not stand visiting me there, is what I mean—and he had me moved to a single room. Our health insurance didn’t cover this luxury, and every day was a drain on our savings. I was grateful not to hear that poor woman crying out, but had anyone known the extent of my loneliness I would have been embarrassed. Whenever a nurse came to take my temperature, I tried to get her to stay for a few minutes, but the nurses were busy, they could not just hang around talking.

About three weeks after I was admitted, I turned my eyes from the window late one afternoon and found my mother sitting in a chair at the foot of my bed. “Mom?” I said.

“Hi, Lucy,” she said. Her voice sounded shy but urgent. She leaned forward and squeezed my foot through the sheet. “Hi, Wizzle,” she said. I had not seen my mother for years, and I kept staring at her; I could not figure out why she looked so different.

“Mom, how did you get here?” I asked.

“Oh, I got on an airplane.” She wiggled her fingers, and I knew that there was too much emotion for us. So I waved back, and lay flat. “I think you’ll be all right,” she added, in the same shy-sounding but urgent voice. “I haven’t had any dreams.”

Her being there, using my pet name, which I had not heard in ages, made me feel warm and liquid-filled, as though all my tension had been a solid thing and now was not. Usually I woke at midnight and dozed fitfully, or stared wide-awake through the window at the lights of the city. But that night I slept without waking, and in the morning my mother was sitting where she had been the day before. “Doesn’t matter,” she said when I asked. “You know I don’t sleep lots.”

The nurses offered to bring her a cot, but she shook her head. Every time a nurse offered to bring her a cot, she shook her head. After a while, the nurses stopped asking. My mother stayed with me five nights, and she never slept but in her chair.

During our first full day together my mother and I talked intermittently; I think neither of us quite knew what to do. She asked me a few questions about my girls, and I answered with my face becoming hot. “They’re amazing,” I said. “Oh, they’re just amazing.” About my husband, my mother asked nothing, even though—he told me this on the telephone—he was the one who had called her and asked her to come be with me, who had paid her airfare, who had offered to pick her up at the airport—my mother, who had never been in an airplane before. In spite of her saying she would take a taxi, in spite of her refusal to see him face-to-face, my husband had still given her guidance and money to get to me. Now, sitting in a chair at the foot of my bed, my mother also said nothing about my father, and so I said nothing about him either. I kept wishing she would say “Your father hopes you get better,” but she did not.

“Was it scary getting a taxi, Mom?”

She hesitated, and I felt that I saw the terror that must have visited her when she stepped off the plane. But she said, “I have a tongue in my head, and I used it.”

After a moment I said, “I’m really glad you’re here.”

She smiled quickly and looked toward the window.

This was the middle of the 1980s, before cellphones, and when the beige telephone next to my bed rang and it was my husband—my mother could tell, I’m sure, by the pitiful way I said “Hi,” as though ready to weep—my mother would quietly rise from her chair and leave the room. I suppose during those times she found food in the cafeteria, or called my father from a pay phone down the hall, since I never saw her eat, and since I assumed my father wondered over her safety—there was no problem, as far as I understood it, between them—and after I had spoken to each child, kissing the phone mouthpiece a dozen times, then lying back onto the pillow and closing my eyes, my mother would slip back into the room, for when I opened my eyes she would be there.

That first day we spoke of my brother, the eldest of us three siblings, who, unmarried, lived at home with my parents, though he was thirty-six, and of my older sister, who was thirty-four and who lived ten miles from my parents, with five children and a husband. I asked if my brother had a job. “He has no job,” my mother said. “He spends the night with any animal that will be killed the next day.” I asked her what she had said, and she repeated what she had said. She added, “He goes into the Pedersons’ barn, and he sleeps next to the pigs that will be taken to slaughter.” I was surprised to hear this, and I said so, and my mother shrugged.

Then my mother and I talked about the nurses; my mother named them right away: “Cookie,” for the skinny one who was crispy in her affect; “Toothache,” for the woebegone older one; “Serious Child,” for the Indian woman we both liked.

But I was tired, and so my mother started telling me stories of people she had known years before. She talked in a way I didn’t remember, as though a pressure of feeling and words and observations had been stuffed down inside her for years, and her voice was breathy and unselfconscious. Sometimes I dozed off, and when I woke I would beg her to talk again. But she said, “Oh, Wizzle-dee, you need your rest.”

“I am resting! Please, Mom. Tell me something. Tell me anything. Tell me about Kathie Nicely. I always loved her name.”

“Oh yes. Kathie Nicely. Goodness, she came to a bad end.”

We were oddities, our family, even in that tiny rural town of Amgash, Illinois, where there were other homes that were run-down and lacking fresh paint or shutters or gardens, no beauty for the eye to rest upon. These houses were grouped together in what was the town, but our house was not near them. While it is said that children accept their circumstances as normal, both Vicky and I understood that we were different. We were told on the playground by other children, “Your family stinks,” and they’d run off pinching their noses with their fingers; my sister was told by her second-grade teacher—in front of the class—that being poor was no excuse for having dirt behind the ears, no one was too poor to buy a bar of soap. My father worked on farm machinery, though he was often getting fired for disagreeing with the boss, then getting rehired again, I think because he was good at the work and would be needed once more. My mother took in sewing: A hand-painted sign, where our long driveway met the road, announced SEWING AND ALTERATIONS. And though my father, when he said our prayers with us at night, made us thank God that we had enough food, the fact is I was often ravenous, and what we had for supper many nights was molasses on bread. Telling a lie and wasting food were always things to be punished for. Otherwise, on occasion and without warning, my parents—and it was usually my mother and usually in the presence of our father—struck us impulsively and vigorously, as I think some people may have suspected by our splotchy skin and sullen dispositions.

And there was isolation.

We lived in the Sauk Valley Area, where you can go for a long while seeing only one or two houses surrounded by fields, and as I have said, we didn’t have houses near us. We lived with cornfields and fields of soybeans spreading to the horizon; and yet beyond the horizon was the Pedersons’ pig farm. In the middle of the cornfields stood one tree, and its starkness was striking. For many years I thought that tree was my friend; it was my friend. Our home was down a very long dirt road, not far from the Rock River, near some trees that were windbreaks for the cornfields. So we did not have any neighbors nearby. And we did not have a television and we did not have newspapers or magazines or books in the house. The first year of her marriage, my mother had worked at the local library, and apparently—my brother later told me this—loved books. But then the library told my mother the regulations had changed, they could only hire someone with a proper education. My mother never believed them. She stopped reading, and many years went by before she went to a different library in a different town and brought home books again. I mention this because there is the question of how children become aware of what the world is, and how to act in it.

How, for example, do you learn that it is impolite to ask a couple why they have no children? How do you set a table? How do you know if you are chewing with your mouth open if no one has ever told you? How do you even know what you look like if the only mirror in the house is a tiny one high above the kitchen sink, or if you have never heard a living soul say that you are pretty, but rather, as your breasts develop, are told by your mother that you are starting to look like one of the cows in the Pedersons’ barn?

How Vicky managed, to this day I don’t know. We were not as close as you might expect; we were equally friendless and equally scorned, and we eyed each other with the same suspicion with which we eyed the rest of the world. There are times now, and my life has changed so completely, that I think back on the early years and I find myself thinking: It was not that bad. Perhaps it was not. But there are times, too—unexpected—when walking down a sunny sidewalk, or watching the top of a tree bend in the wind, or seeing a November sky close down over the East River, I am suddenly filled with the knowledge of darkness so deep that a sound might escape from my mouth, and I will step into the nearest clothing store and talk with a stranger about the shape of sweaters newly arrived. This must be the way most of us maneuver through the world, half knowing, half not, visited by memories that can’t possibly be true. But when I see others walking with confidence down the sidewalk, as though they are free completely from terror, I realize I don’t know how others are. So much of life seems speculation.

Reading Group Guide

1. Lucy’s husband asked her mother to visit her in the hospital, and paid for her trip. Do you think that was a gesture of love on his part?

2. What role does the gossip Lucy and her mother share play in the book?

3. Do you think Lucy blames her mother for the more painful parts of her childhood? Could her mother have done better?

4. WWII and the Nazis are themes that profoundly affect Lucy’s father (and hence her whole family), Lucy’s marriage to her first husband, and even her dreams. Discuss. 

5. Lucy expresses great love for her doctor. How would you describe that love? 

6. Lucy’s friend Jeremy told her she needed to be “ruthless as a writer.” Did she take his advice? How?

7. Why did Lucy keep returning again and again to see the marble statue at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

8. How has the poverty of Lucy’s childhood shaped her life and her work? 

9. What does living in New York City mean for Lucy? Do you think she feels at home in New York? 

10. What did Sarah Payne mean, when she said to Lucy: “We only have one story”?  

Customer Reviews

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My Name is Lucy Barton: A Novel 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know I'm in the minority here with my review but I didn't like it as much as others, but I'm not sure why?! I think it's because I wanted more out of the infamous mother's hospital visit with her daughter, more clarity into their troubled relationship, and certainly more answers about Lucy's dark memories. All they talked about for 5 days was gossip about the neighbors back home!!! Really! After nine years of estrangement. Of course, the reader can understand all the between-the-lines in this book but I wanted more answers. I did zip through it in a few hours (it's only 143 pgs) so I must have liked something about it, but all in all, I was disappointed. Sorry, I really hate giving negative reviews and normally wouldn't comment but $12.99 for 143 pages, I needed to say what I thought.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the sample and thought , well it must just get off to a slow start because the reviews raved about it . Mistake. I had to force myself to finish it. No character development or plot . More like random thoughts with no coherent theme. Do not waste your money on this book. This is the first review I have submitted becaude I felt ripped off and deceived by reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't live up to the hype. I was frustrated by the lack of details and answers regarding different topics/memories brought up throughout the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the book as I thought the main character was enjoyable for the most part. And the parts of her story we got were interesting. Just seemed like there was so much missing. Lots more could have been written here to make this a really fine novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wasn't really bad.....wasn't really good. Just an odd read. No real depth to the story and actually no plot. It was just a quick simple story. Odd short story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved Olive Kittredge, but not Lucy Barton. This very short book contains flashes of brilliance, but most of it seemed like notes or an outline rather than a finished product. The story had a lot of potential but fell short. Disappointing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A quick read which , had the characters and plot been further developed , been a really amazing novel . Left the reader begging for more .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know that the reviews were not good. I loved the book. It's a story about a woman from when she was very young to later in life. I especially found the parts that involved Lucy and her mother very moving. It really is an American story of poverty, family and growing up. The writing was very moving. This is Elizabeth Strout style. Either you like it or you don't . I love her books. They make you think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lots of hype about this book, so i was anxious to read it. What a disappointment! I kept reading, expecting the story to take off but it never did. Don't waste your money or time. Just sayin'.......
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
I didn't expect to like this book nearly as much as I did. It is a rather short book that I easily read in a single evening but it tells a big story. I found myself really relating to just about everything in this book. I have spent more hours with family members at the hospital than I would have dreamed possible in my younger days. It is just a fact of life for most people that the people you love will get sick and need you while they are in the hospital. Or maybe you need to make sure that they are really okay so you go to the hospital just to make sure. Either way, it seems like large portions of some years are spent sitting in an comfortable plastic chair while tests are performed and surgery is completed. As you may have guessed, I have served my time in one of those plastic chairs. I love the way that this story is told. I got to know Lucy Barton the way that I get to know people in my life - one story at a time. This book jumped all over the place, back and forth in time, from one story to the next. Sometimes the story focused on Lucy and sometimes it focused on a person from the town she grew up in. I could really relate to just about everything in this book. It almost felt like I was sitting in that room listening to all of the stories being told. Every single part of this book comes together to paint a much larger picture. This was really a story of Lucy's life. One of the most powerful things in the book is how the relationship between Lucy and her mother is illustrated through their interactions in the hospital room. Is there anything more complicated than a mother-daughter relationship at times? There is a lot of insight about how Lucy became the woman that she is and how strong she really has proven to be. This was one of those books that really was almost impossible for me to put down even though nothing overly exciting ever happens. I am in awe of writing that can grab hold of me like that. The writing in this book was superb and not a word was wasted. The depth of the story and characters in such a short book is actually quite amazing. I would highly recommend this book to others. This is the first book by Elizabeth Strout that I have had a chance to read but I am definitely planning on changing that very soon. I received an advance reader edition of this book from Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley for the purpose of providing an honest review.
KateTall More than 1 year ago
This had to be one of the most boring books I've ever read! I had to force myself to finish it, hoping there would be some redemption for the shallow characters, the plodding storyline, and the hinted at but untold stories. I just cannot see the positive reviews from editors or readers! To each his or her own, I guess.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed in this book. I kept expecting a big breakthrough in communication between mother and daughter, wife and husband and it never came.
Piney10 More than 1 year ago
I'd rate this book a 4.5. I really love Elizabeth Strout's work. She is a gifted novelist and does not disappoint in her most recent novel, My Name is Lucy Barton. I found this more similar in style to Olive Kitteridge which I really loved. Much of this story centers on a mother daughter relationship, which is complicated on its own, but add the additional ingredients of being raised in extreme poverty, loneliness, possible abuse, post traumatic stress syndrome, and stoic Midwestern qualities. This novel has many dark and troubling sides but also has some positive and tender aspects. For me, it was a very powerful and emotional novel. Ms Strout has once again, through her excellent writing, provided a revealing insight into the human condition.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
This book really touched me in the fact that it really hit home for me. I have experienced a lot the same relationships and feelings that the author wrote about for Lucy Barton. There were times I really wanted to go off to a closet or somewhere where no one could see me reading it or the looks on my face. I thought I had left all that behind and there it was right there in front of me. While, of course, everything wasn't exactly the same, I could relate to a lot of it. I'm not sure how I would review this book for others. I'm sure there are a lot of us out there that grew up poor in a family that didn't show a lot of love. For them, it may be satisfying to know your not alone or it may bring back memories you don't really want to remember. For me, it was satisfying. I think the author did a great job in conveying Lucy's background with just hints, not a lot of descriptions. It wasn't a woe is me book at all. Actually other people could probably read this book and get an entirely different view. That's just how good the writing was. It would touch on something and go away, leaving the reader to add your own ideas and opinions. I think the book was very well written and I truly believed Lucy Barton was a real person writing her own memoir. I read it pretty quickly and was surprised to find it was only around 200 pages as I got a lot more out of it than that. I would like to thank Random House and Net Galley for providing me with this free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed this one!
GiltBuckram More than 1 year ago
“But I think I know so well the pain we children clutch to our chests, how it lasts our whole lifetime, with longings so large you can’t even weep. We hold it tight, we do, with each seizure of the beating heart: This is mine, this is mine, this is mine. “ -Lucy Barton Pulitzer Prize winner, Elizabeth Strout, author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, has made me feel things I haven’t in awhile in her poetic new novel. My Name is Lucy Barton, is an impactful novel, which touches on our relationships we form during childhood, and how memories from that period influence who we are as adults. My Name is Lucy Barton is about a middle-aged woman yearning for her mother’s affection. Lucy has found herself in the hospital after a simple operation has gone awry. Maintaining little to no communication with her family, she is surprised when her mother arrives to spend time with her. Shallow conversation eventually leads to memories of Lucy’s childhood, which wasn’t terrible by today’s standards, but Lucy still felt a hole. In the few hours with her mother, she remembers the loneliness she felt as a child. The visit with her mother brought her own inadequacies as a divorced mother to the surface and how her decisions affect her children and will eventually become their identity. “Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden inside the crevices of my mouth, reminding me.” There are unsaid hurts and memories I have that have only amplified in my mind since becoming a mother. Being an adult doesn’t make these things go away, in fact it brings the memories to the forefront, what am I doing to my daughter’s childhood and her memories? No one talks about the pain in the past (this one bothers me the most); from a child’s perspective, I’d like to tell the parents out there, it’s alright to talk about it. Children feel so much pressure as it is, help ease their pain and communicate with them, they are kids, they don’t know how to process and feel as an adult, you have to teach them. Strout’s words ring true as the elephant in the room: how is our family life affecting my child and how will she look back on it all? With longing? Disdain? I hope the former. In the famous words of Dr. Seuss, “Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot,” I am pained when I read this line to my 3 year old, only hoping she doesn’t have to endure loneliness, but I guess it’s inevitable. I know we can’t shield our children from everything and if we try, we end up giving them a different kind of pain and identity. Let me clarify: I’m not saying she needs to be with someone to be happy or just being with someone because she’s lonely. I’m talking about as a child, lonely at school, home, in the midst of a crowd. I’ve been there, and it hurts. I can’t save or rescue her from that, but maybe we can raise the emotional standard of family life, we can certainly strive to be better parents and individuals. I am Lucy Barton in so many ways, our experiences are different, but our feelings are the same. **** 4 Stars My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout 208 Pages Published January 12, 2016 by Random House Genre: Fiction, Modern Literature, Women’s Fiction ISBN-13: 978-1400067695 *Disclaimer: This eBook was received through NetGalley and Random House for an honest review. Gilt & Buckram. . . the framework that holds adventure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can see why this book troubled some readers. It leaves things unanswered. No nice neat wrap of what had happened and why it happened. A lot like life, sometimes things don't get explained. This is a book for the heart to really understand, not the mind. I really liked it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BMedvid More than 1 year ago
“I know so well the pain we children clutch to our chests, how it lasts our whole lifetime, with longings so large you can’t even weep. We hold it tight, we do, with each seizure of the beating heart: This is mine, this is mine, this is mine.” My Name Is Lucy Barton tells the story of a woman, named Lucy, as she recovers from an illness and tries to make sense of/peace with her complicated relationship with her mother. Lucy was raised in extreme poverty by parents who were not able to nurture and show her love in the manner that most children need. These circumstances have a fundamental and lasting impact on Lucy’s understanding of people, including herself, her choices, and the woman she is. The novel is written from Lucy’s point of view and comes across as a mix of a diary, vignettes of events, puzzles with half-revealed truths, but mostly, her own “one true story”. Strout uses language sparsely and with restraint. The novel is a short 191 pages that can be read quickly but should be savored slowly. The details are minimal and pared down to only the essentials. However, those pages resonate with a profusion of intense emotion and the vulnerability of the human condition. Loneliness, longing, pain, and inferiority are all felt strongly throughout the novel but so are resilience and love. At one point Lucy says “I feel I know a true sentence when I hear one now”. Strout filled this novel with true sentences. The novel summarizes itself nicely with the quotation “This is a story about love, … This is a story about a mother who loves her daughter. Imperfectly. Because we all love imperfectly.” I highly recommend this novel and suspect that Lucy will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.
Two2dogs More than 1 year ago
I could relate to parts of this novel, liked the short simple chapters, an easy read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You have to get used to her writing style. She makes you slow down. For me, this book was very moving.
PumpkinKV More than 1 year ago
toniFMAMTC More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars This story kept my interest the entire time, but I don't really know what the point was. I felt like maybe it was about how we all make mistakes or how we have to love our parents even if they weren't always good parents? I really just don't know. It's like a lady just telling random things in her life.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
This was a more serious read than I expected. I listened to this novel as I did my daily walks among our neighborhood and along some trails and I was surprised at how lonely Lucy felt. Lying in her hospital bed, after a routine operation, Lucy lays waiting. She’s had a success life after a rugged childhood and I think as she waits for her body to heal, she is just resting. When her mother arrives and they visit, I feel that she finally discovers what her life has amounted to. This surprise visit from her mother whom she hadn’t seen in years was arranged by her husband which was an expected act on his behalf. Growing up, Lucy and her family didn’t have much. They were isolated among the farm fields and they often did without. When her mother arrives at the hospital, Lucy begins to remember what her childhood was like. Those five days that her mother spent with Lucy in the hospital were priceless. Her mother gossips about the people from the town they grew up in, they spoke of topics that Lucy brought up and her mother hardly slept at all. I loved how her mother became her mother again. She looked after Lucy as if she was a young child and needed her constant protection, she never left her side and I had to wonder why she hadn’t been a mother to her outside those sterile walls? Emotions were tying these two together, connections were being rejoined but some subjects were not being discussed and it bothered me that Lucy was afraid to address these topics with her mother. It is strange to say that, I along with Lucy was upset when she had improved and was ready to be released. Mother called a taxi to take her to the airport and Lucy was set to back to her home, their meeting over with. Lucy tremendously enjoyed her time with her mother and she learned greatly things about her mother and the things they talked about. This is not a great novel to read while you’re walking as I continued to listen to the novel as Lucy’s relationship with her mother continues and the clock moves forward. My emotions were getting the best of me while Lucy became a daughter again. I liked how there were morals thrown into the novel, things that Lucy learned while growing up and she tried to apply them throughout her life. Growing up, she tried not to judge others for their actions for she didn’t know the life that they had led. Many times she reflected back on this moral in the novel and this is an important one that I try to follow.
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
Cynthia Ozick has defined modernism as "the kind of overt self-consciousness that identifies and interrogates its own motions and motives." Is Elizabeth Strout's My Name Is Lucy Barton modern by this definition? It's certainly self-conscious, in the sense that it is a book about Lucy Barton, written by Lucy Barton, which recognizes that it is a book about Lucy Barton written by Lucy Barton. It clearly identifies and interrogates its own motives and recitations of events because it is, in essence, Lucy Barton asking herself how she feels - about motherhood, marriage, mental illness, and more - by tracing her relationships with her parents, her husband, and her daughters. Yet it is also the antithesis of modern, because Lucy constantly shies away from any true insight, both by doubting her own memories and by obscuring the traumas in the lives of the Barton family. Strout, in her persona as Lucy, is quite coy, particularly when it comes to sex, but the book is set in New York City in the 1980s and 1990s. Even though Lucy is primarily recounting events from her childhood in rural Amgash, Illinois, one would expect her to filter those experiences through her adult eyes and come to some definite conclusions; spoiler alert: she does not. Something about Strout's tone led me from the very beginning to think that we were in the 1950s, and that temporal disconnect left me unsettled throughout the entire book. Fortunately, My Name Is Lucy Barton is a very short book, so I don't consider the couple of hours I spent reading and reviewing it wasted. However, it has now been relegated to my "meh" pile. I received a free copy of My Name Is Lucy Barton from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago