This one hurts, but it’s amazing.I picked My Name Is Lucy Barton up one day randomly and ended up finishing it quite quickly, especially towards those last 100 pages. I was captivated by its strange but compelling storyline. Plus, I was really loving the vibe this book gave off. My Name Is Lucy Barton was exactly what I was in the mood for: an epic but, at the same time, quiet family saga. Oh, and there’s gossip (!!!) about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois.
Our story begins to unfold when Lucy Barton arrives at the hospital to have her appendix out. Difficulties ensue and she ends up staying for a number of weeks. And while slowly recovering, her mother – whom she hasn’t seen in years- arrives. Slowly over their next five shared days, they reminisce on the lives of their family and friends.
Side note: her mother remains a mystery that I’m desperate to solve, especially the dreams and visions she briefly mentioned.
“My family did not attend my wedding or acknowledge it, but when my first daughter was born I called my parents from New York, and my mother said she had dreamed it, so she already knew I had a baby girl, but she didn’t know the name, and she seemed pleased with the name, Christina. After that I called them on their birthdays, and on holidays, and when my other daughter, Becka, was born. We spoke politely but always, I felt, with discomfort, and I did not see any of my family until the day my mother showed up at the foot of my bed in the hospital where the Chrysler Building shone outside the window.”
I love it when dreams are mentioned in books—it’s how you win over my heart in a second.
I do, however, need to mention that it took me awhile to get used to the writing style. Here’s a perfect example of why:
“At the end of the night I heard him say to a woman who’d come to speak to him, “She’s always taken a stage well.” He did not say it nicely, is how I felt. And I took the subway home alone; it was not a night I loved the city I have lived in for so long. But I could not have said exactly why. Almost, I could have said why. But not exactly why.”
It seemed as though awkwardly formed sentences were thrown in together that I had to reread in order to understand their full meaning. But overtime I got accustomed to the narrative, and it seemed to flow better for me.
Also, I love this next bit:
Then she said, “Listen to me, and listen to me carefully. What you are writing, what you want to write,” and she leaned forward again and tapped with her finger the piece I had given her, this is very good and it will be published. Now listen. People will go after you for combining poverty and abuse. Such a stupid word, ‘abuse,’ such a conventional and stupid word, but people will say there’s poverty without abuse, and you will never say anything. Never ever defend your work. This is a story about love, you know that. This is a story of a man who has been tortured every day of his life for things he did in the war. This is the story of a wife who stayed with him, because most wives did in that generation, and she comes to her daughter’s hospital room and talks compulsively about everyone’s marriage going bad, she doesn’t even know it, doesn’t even know that’s what she’s doing. This is a story about a mother who loves her daughter. Imperfectly. Because we all love imperfectly. But if you find yourself protecting anyone as you write this piece, remember this: You’re not doing it right.”
I love how Elizabeth Strout took the time to create such beautiful and tragic backstories to each of her characters, whether they were the main or side ones. Her voice is strong and clear throughout the storyline—it made all the noise in my head quiet.
My Name Is Lucy Barton is a truly enthralling and powerful book on myriad topics—from family, secrets, and love to dreams and memories— that made it quite impossible to put down. I wasn’t planning on finishing this so quickly, but it was just too good not to.