Thursday, May 25, 2017

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

If you liked Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton (and almost everyone who read it had good things to say about it), you are going to absolutely love Strout’s follow-up, Anything Is Possible.  My Name Is Lucy Barton largely took place in Lucy’s hospital room while she and her mother talked about people they both knew from the little town in which the Bartons lived.  If the Bartons were not the poorest family in town, they were certainly among the very poorest, and Lucy and her mother largely judged their neighbors as a reflection of how those people treated them and the rest of the Barton family. That, however, does not mean that their assessments of those they discussed were always the same, leaving the reader to wonder sometimes which of their characterizations was the most accurate.

Elizabeth Strout
In Anything Is Possible, Strout fills in the backstories of many of the characters Lucy and her mother discussed in that hospital room.  And because Strout has revealed that she more or less wrote the two novels simultaneously, Anything Is Possible is even more intriguing than it already would have been.  This time around, the author uses a group of what at first appear to be a collection of standalone short stories that turn out to be so interrelated that they morph into an even more satisfying novel than Lucy Barton was.  And that is saying a lot.

There are stories about Lucy’s mother, her siblings, one mentally-unstable Vietnam War veteran, some of the town’s richest residents, and several others from Lucy’s past.  Lucy herself makes an appearance in a story titled “Sister” in which we learn that the trauma of growing up dirt poor as member of a family looked down upon by the whole town has emotionally crippled her for life.  Lucy, now a well-respected novelist, seems caught between two worlds when she finally pays her hometown a visit after several years of absence – so much so, in fact, that she suffers a panic attack of sorts that has her fleeing Amgash in pure desperation to escape the childhood memories being there stirs up for her. 

Bottom Line: Anything Is Possible works beautifully as a stand-alone novel for readers who have not read My Name Is Lucy Barton, but the novel’s special beauty comes from how much it adds to the reader’s understanding of the events and characters in Lucy Barton.  This is literary fiction at its best, and it is not to be missed.

1 comment:

  1. I have not read Lucy Barton, and now I want to read both of these novels.