“My Name is Lucy Barton” by Elizabeth Strout

mynamelucyThe prize-winning author, Elizabeth Strout, has done it again in her new short novel,  My Name is Lucy Barton.

It’s the story of a New York housewife (and successful writer) who is lying in a hospital bed when her estranged mother pays her a visit. Lucy Barton is gradually recovering from an unsuccessful appendix operation. Her mother arrives unexpectedly, and spends five nights dozing in a chair in her room. They gently reminisce to the point where mother and daughter finally get somewhat closer.

Lucy Barton herself is interesting. Brought up on a poor farm, she discovers books at school, as well as some helpful teachers who see her ability and get her into achieving high marks that pave her way to university. She married a successful man and has two daughters whom she adores. They move to New York city and here she sells articles to magazines and newspapers.

There is nothing sensational in her life, but Strout has a gift with the emotional details. She brings Lucy to life in such a way that we feel very close to her as her apparently perfect life gently unravels. Strout has won the Pulitzer, as well as other national prizes, for four earlier books. She lives in New York City.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall