Have you ever finished a book and wished you could spend more time with the characters? That’s how we felt upon reading Elizabeth Strout’s 2016 novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton.
Lucky for us, Strout has published a follow-up, Anything Is Possible. And it does not disappoint.
In case you missed it, Lucy Barton is about a writer from Amgash, Illinois, living and working in 1970s New York. There’s a strained relationship with her mother, allusions to her father’s violent “episodes” and a whole lot of small-town drama.
Anything Is Possible picks up years later, with Lucy still living in NYC as a successful writer, and the people of Amgash still struggling with their demons. While Lucy Barton subtly nods to the town’s difficulties, Anything Is Possible blows the door open on those deep, dark secrets.
Told from multiple perspectives (and in the stories-as-chapters style of Strout’s Pulitzer-winning Olive Kitteridge), the book introduces us to the families of Amgash—some are charmingly eccentric; others, nearly impossible to like.
Certain characters thrive, like Lucy’s cousin Abel, a successful business and family man who overcame childhood poverty. Some survive despite the odds being stacked against them, like Tommy Guptill, the janitor at the local school who teaches a powerful lesson about forgiveness. Others still are unable to get out of their own way. (Think Lila, Lucy’s niece who feels overwhelming anger toward everyone and everything.)
While My Name Is Lucy Barton is an excellent intro to this town and the people who live in it, you don’t have to have read it to understand and appreciate the new book.
In fact, given the choice between the two, we’d recommend Anything Is Possible—it’s enthralling.