If you’ve been following along with Elizabeth Strout as she shares across novels (My Name Is Lucy Barton, Anything is Possible, and Oh, William!) the deep life story and relationships of Lucy Barton, then you will love this book. It embodies short snippets of Lucy’s reflections as she escapes NYC with her ex-husband William and heads to a reclusive rural house in Maine on the ocean to escape the pandemic.
Lucy’s overwhelmed with the strangeness of suddenly becoming reclusive, of the almost unbearable length of pandemic isolation with no end in sight, and deepening worries about her two daughters living far away. The book captures moments of her disbelief, confusion, flashback memories, and being forced to reflect on what makes a life worth living. Lucy also has a reckoning about her relationship to William, with newfound closeness catching her by surprise, especially as she’s still processing grief over the death of her second husband. Her daughters both have their own ongoing traumas in their marriages unraveling, in addition to being appalled at their Mom’s growing feelings about William. There’s also a savvy capturing of the hostility of some of the Maine locals, who fervently wish that all the displaced city folk just leave their small town alone.
Many of Lucy’s reflections hit home – from moments such as having outside drinks with neighbors while social distancing to her deep dismay over the political divides with Trump in office, George Floyd’s murder, and the rise of the “Black Lives Matter” movement during the heart of the pandemic. It’s the first book I’ve read that emotionally captures the turmoil of lockdown as well as the tension consuming the nation. We also get the thrill of appearances in the novel of Olive Kitteridge and the Burgess boys from other of Strout’s novels.
All in all, a poignant read that leaves you wanting more Lucy and how she’ll rebuild her life post-pandemic.
Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for an advanced reader’s copy.