This is a quiet but emotionally powerful and effective novel. The effectiveness lies in a seemingly simple structure of recounting the intimate moments between a mother and daughter within two hundred pages. The book starts modestly in terms of style and narration: Lucy is admitted to a New York hospital for an unknown illness that brings her mother to visit her, travelling from their remote home village in Illinois. Below this narrative surface we discover the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her love for her children, and her reflection on early years of loneliness and alienation. Strout uses a direct, sparse language devoid of sentimentality and subjectivity, yet almost immediately we are transported to a complex emotional reality in the protagonist’s childhood and the psychological tension with her mother. The past and the present are woven effortlessly in her observationally acute writing style. It is especially remarkable that in our current literary world flooded with ‘important events’ and ‘heroic adventures’, Strout manages to deliver a fresh, honest, almost non-eventful but deeply human and poignant account of human emotion.
About the book
Lucy is recovering from an operation in a New York hospital when she wakes to find her estranged mother sitting by her bed. They have not seen one another in years. As they talk Lucy finds herself recalling her troubled rural childhood and how it was she eventually arrived in the big city, got married and had children. But this unexpected visit leaves her doubting the life she’s made: wondering what is lost and what has yet to be found.
About the author
Elizabeth Strout is the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge, as well as The Burgess Boys, a New York Times bestseller, Abide With Me and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize. She lives in New York City and Portland, Maine.
A short and simple novel with a lasting impact on the reader. The author tells a story both beautiful and haunting, revealed piecemeal through the memories and conversations of a mother and her adult daughter. A book of high literary merit and simple charms.
This book is about people who love imperfectly, as we all do. The author has managed to weave a story that spans decades and generations, while still gripping our attention without letting go. Reading this will make you sad but it’s worth the tears.
This is a deceptively simple novel that uses it’s sparseness to ensure each word and sentence are weighted to provide a taut, compelling novel.