A #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE & THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
An exquisite story of mothers and daughters from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge
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.
The story continues in Oh William!, available to read now!
'A terrific writer' Zadie Smith
'A superbly gifted storyteller and a craftswoman in a league of her own' Hilary Mantel
'So good it gave me goosebumps. One of the best writers in America' Sunday Times
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
It’s rare that a book hits the heart’s bullseye like this. Elizabeth Strout, the author of Olive Kitteridge, has written a short and brilliant novel that explores an idea central to much great art: “we never knew, and never would know, what it would be like to understand another person fully”. And yet by the time you finish reading My Name is Lucy Barton, you feel like you’ve made a precious new friend. In a warm, confessional tone, Strout’s protagonist shares snapshots of her harrowing rural childhood and her nine-week stay in a Manhattan hospital during the height of the AIDS epidemic. We have tears in our eyes thinking about Lucy’s journey to learn how to love herself and those around her.
Despite its slim length, Strout's (The Burgess Boys) tender and moving novel should be read slowly, to savor the depths beneath what at first seems a simple story of a mother-daughter reconciliation. Lucy Barton is shocked when her mother, from whom she's been estranged for years, flies from tiny Amgash, Ill., to be at Lucy's hospital bedside in New York. Convalescing from a postsurgery infection, Lucy is tentative about making conversation, gently inquiring about people back home while avoiding the real reason why there's been no contact with her parents. Strout develops the story in short chapters in which the reader intuits the emotional complexity of Lucy's life as she reveals long-buried memories of an isolated, profoundly impoverished childhood and the sexual secrets, "the knowledge of darkness," that shrouded her life. Though her mother calls her Wizzle, an endearing childhood name that implies warmth and closeness, she is unable to tell Lucy that she loves her. Running counter to the memories of her harsh, stoic upbringing is Lucy's anguish at missing her own two daughters, waiting for her at home. Lucy also reflects on other cruelties of life in New York City, specifically the scourge of AIDS (the setting is the 1980s) and the underlying troubles of her marriage. Her narrative voice is restrained yet expressive. This masterly novel's message, made clear in the moving denouement, is that sometimes in order to express love, one has to forgive.