My Name is Lucy Barton; Elizabeth Strout
Random House - 2016
My Name is Lucy Barton was a quiet but haunting story about sad childhoods and imperfect love.
As a child Lucy and her two siblings grew up in Amgash, Illinois, a small rural town. For a while the family lived in an uncle's unheated garage with no running water and not much food. Lucy's mother was cold and distant and her father's mental state was deeply affected by what he experienced serving in WWII. The violent outburst that Lucy and her siblings witnessed and how the children were treated affected each of them in different ways. While Lucy was able to leave her home on a college scholarship, her mother and siblings weren't as lucky.
We learn about Lucy's story years later when she is married with two daughters of her own, and is writing her own life story. Lucy recalls an earlier time when she was hospitalized in NYC for nine weeks for a mysterious infection following an appendectomy. A lonely time, her husband who disliked hospitals rarely visited, instead he called Lucy's mother and asks her to come to NY to visit. Even though Lucy had been estranged from her family, her mother makes the trip to NYC and spends five days in her daughter's room. It is through these mother-daughter conversations and the triggering of Lucy's memories that the readers learns about the secrets of the past.
- "I have said before: It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it, I think it's the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down."
- "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 never heard a living soul say that you are pretty, but rather, as your breasts develop, you are told by your mother that you are starting to look like one of the cows in the Pedersons' barn?"
- "I have no idea if she kissed me goodbye, but I cannot think she would have. I have no memory of my mother ever kissing me. She may have kissed me though; I may be wrong.
- "Do I understand the hurt my children feel? I think I do, though they might claim otherwise. 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."
I loved this quiet, thought-provoking novel; the writing is beautiful. It made me want to go out and hug my adult children and let them know, once again, just how much they are loved. Be sure to read it.
(audio & eGalley)