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My Name Is Lucy Barton

Cover of My Name Is Lucy Barton

My Name Is Lucy Barton

A Novel
#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.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post
  • The New York Times Book Review
  • NPR
  • BookPage
  • LibraryReads
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    Look for Elizabeth Strout's highly anticipated new work of fiction, Anything Is Possible, which is available for pre-order now.
    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
    "[Strout] reminds us of the power of our stories—and our ability to transcend our troubled narratives."Miami Herald
    "Magnificent."—Ann Patchett
  • #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.
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
    The Washington Post
  • The New York Times Book Review
  • NPR
  • BookPage
  • LibraryReads
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    Look for Elizabeth Strout's highly anticipated new work of fiction, Anything Is Possible, which is available for pre-order now.
    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
    "[Strout] reminds us of the power of our stories—and our ability to transcend our troubled narratives."Miami Herald
    "Magnificent."—Ann Patchett
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    Excerpts-
    • From the book 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...
    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.
    Reviews-
    • Publisher's Weekly

      October 19, 2015
      Despite its slim length, Strout’s (The Burgess Boys) tender and moving novel should be read slowly, to savor the depths beneath what at first seems a simple story of a mother-daughter reconciliation. Lucy Barton is shocked when her mother, from whom she’s been estranged for years, flies from tiny Amgash, Ill., to be at Lucy’s hospital bedside in New York. Convalescing from a postsurgery infection, Lucy is tentative about making conversation, gently inquiring about people back home while avoiding the real reason why there’s been no contact with her parents. Strout develops the story in short chapters in which the reader intuits the emotional complexity of Lucy’s life as she reveals long-buried memories of an isolated, profoundly impoverished childhood and the sexual secrets, “the knowledge of darkness,” that shrouded her life. Though her mother calls her Wizzle, an endearing childhood name that implies warmth and closeness, she is unable to tell Lucy that she loves her. Running counter to the memories of her harsh, stoic upbringing
      is Lucy’s anguish at missing her own
      two daughters, waiting for her at home. Lucy also reflects on other cruelties of
      life in New York City, specifically the scourge of AIDS (the setting is the 1980s) and the underlying troubles of her marriage. Her narrative voice is restrained yet expressive. This masterly novel’s message, made clear in the moving denouement, is that sometimes in order to express love, one has to forgive. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Literary Agency.

    • Kirkus

      Starred review from October 15, 2015
      From Pulitzer Prize-winning Strout (The Burgess Boys, 2013, etc.), a short, stark novel about the ways we break and maintain the bonds of family. The eponymous narrator looks back to the mid-1980s, when she goes into the hospital for an appendix removal and succumbs to a mysterious fever that keeps her there for nine weeks. The possible threat to her life brings Lucy's mother, from whom she has been estranged for years, to her bedside--but not the father whose World War II-related trauma is largely responsible for clever Lucy's fleeing her impoverished family for college and life as a writer. She marries a man from a comfortable background who can't ever quite quiet her demons; his efforts to bridge the gap created by their wildly different upbringings occupy some of the novel's saddest pages. As in Olive Kittredge (2008), Strout peels back layers of denial and self-protective brusqueness to reveal the love that Lucy's mother feels but cannot express. In fewer than 200 intense, dense pages, she considers class prejudice, the shame that poverty brings, the AIDS epidemic, and the healing powers--and the limits--of art. Most of all, this is a story of mothers and daughters: Lucy's ambivalent feelings for the mother who failed to protect her are matched by her own guilt for leaving the father of her two girls, who have never entirely forgiven her. Later sections, in which Lucy's dying mother tells her "I need you to leave" and the father who brutalized her says, "What a good girl you've always been," are almost unbearably moving, with their pained recognition that the mistakes we make are both irreparable and subject to repentance. The book does feel a bit abbreviated, but that's only because the characters and ideas are so compelling we want to hear more from the author who has limned them so sensitively. Fiction with the condensed power of poetry: Strout deepens her mastery with each new work, and her psychological acuity has never required improvement.

      COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

    • Ann Patchett "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 . . . 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. . . . [Elizabeth Strout] is in supreme and magnificent command of this novel at all times."--Lily King, 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."--Marion Winik, Newsday "Lucy Barton is . . . 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 . . . Strout captures the pull between the ruthlessness required to write without restraint and the necessity of accepting others' flaws. 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 "Strout maps the complex terrain of human relationships by focusing on that which is often unspoken and only implied. . . . [My Name Is Lucy Barton is] a powerful addition to Strout's body of work."--The Seattle Times "Impressionistic and haunting . . . Much of the joy of reading Lucy Barton comes from piecing together the hints and half-revelations in Strout's unsentimental but compelling prose, especially as you begin to grasp the nature of a bond in which everything important is left unsaid. . . . Strout paints an indelible, grueling portrait of poverty and abuse that's all the more unnerving for her reticence. With My Name Is Lucy Barton, she reminds us of the power of our stories--and our ability to transcend our troubled narratives."--Miami Herald "Lovely and heartbreaking . . . a major work in minimalist form . . . In the character of Lucy, Strout has fashioned one of the great resilient modern heroines."--Portland Press-Herald "Strout has proven once again that she is a master of creating unforgettable characters. . . . Her stories open themselves to the reader in a way that is familiar and relatable, but then she delivers these zingers and we marvel at her talent."--The Post and Courier "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."
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