NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From Pulitzer Prize–winning author Elizabeth Strout comes a poignant, pitch-perfect novel about a divorced couple stuck together during lockdown—and the love, loss, despair, and hope that animate us even as the world seems to be falling apart.
“Strout’s understanding of the human condition is capacious.”—NPR
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Oprah Daily, Entertainment Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Time, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, PopSugar, She Reads
With her trademark spare, crystalline prose—a voice infused with “intimate, fragile, desperate humanness” (The Washington Post)—Elizabeth Strout turns her exquisitely tuned eye to the inner workings of the human heart, following the indomitable heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton through the early days of the pandemic.
As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it’s just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea.
Rich with empathy and emotion, Lucy by the Sea vividly captures the fear and struggles that come with isolation, as well as the hope, peace, and possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire. At the heart of this story are the deep human connections that unite us even when we’re apart—the pain of a beloved daughter’s suffering, the emptiness that comes from the death of a loved one, the promise of a new friendship, and the comfort of an old, enduring love.
Shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize
Strout follows up Oh William! with a captivating entry in the Lucy Barton series. This time, Lucy decamps to rural Maine during the first year of the Covid lockdown. At the pandemic's onset in 2020, Lucy's philandering ex-husband and longtime friend, William, whisks her away from New York City to a rental house in coastal Maine. He may have self-centered ulterior motives beyond his assertion that he's trying to save her life, but they are not readily transparent for most of the narrative. Personal and public events intrude during the lockdown as the pair develop a "strange compatibility" while attempting to comprehend the new normal. Their two daughters each face a crisis in their marriage; William contacts his once unknown half sister, Lois Bubar, and reveals a life-threatening medical condition; and the country roils from George Floyd's murder and the insurrection on January 6. Bleak memories of Lucy's impoverished childhood and of her recently deceased husband surface in shattering flashbacks. Loneliness, grief, longing, and loss pervade intertwined family stories as Lucy and William attempt to create new friendships in an initially hostile town. What emerges is a prime testament to the characters' resilience. With Lucy Barton, Strout continues to draw from a deep well.
Lucy by the Sea
It didn’t hold my attention like Strouts other books have. I still enjoyed reading it but the flow was different.
I feel the effects of the pandemic every day. I did not remember the lock down and my feelings at the time. This book reminded me of the foreboding. I hope it never happens again, but I’m afraid it will.
My friend, Lucy.
Strout’s conversational tone draws the reader into her mind so completely that you feel like her character’s most trusted confidante. There is no doubt that the novel reflects many Americans’ fears, frustrations, and loneliness during the dark days of the pandemic, yet Lucy makes it through tough times, and so did we all. “Better, not bitter.”