Flash back to the 2015 Emmy Awards, when HBO’s Olive Kitteridge basically took home every single award. The miniseries was based on the brilliant (and Pulitzer Prize-winning) novel by Elizabeth Strout, a writer so gifted in the nuances of human emotion that you’re left clinging to her every word.
Strout’s new novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton, is no exception.
At the start, Lucy, a young mom and writer, is in a hospital in 1970s New York City, recovering from a lingering illness. She’s been there three weeks when her mother,whom she hasn’t spoken to in years, travels from Amgash, Illinois, to be by her side. The two spend the next several days attempting to quietly reconnect, relying on gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood (“Can you believe Kathie Nicely left her husband for a schoolteacher?”) to mask the topics they simply can’t broach.
And what are those topics? For starters, they’re Lucy’s father’s sometimes violent “episodes” and the terror she feels upon hearing the word snake. But it’s also stuff relating to Lucy’s present life--her marriage, her writerly ambitions, her move to New York.
If you think all this not talking about big, important issues sounds boring, think again. Strout articulately and honestly captures the rich and complicated emotions that often exist in families--how, despite years of pent-up frustration and anger, there’s still an unbreakable bond you can’t put your finger on. Moms: They really do have your number.