My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
Print Length: 208 Pages
Publisher: Random House (January 12, 2016)
I became a fan of Stroud’s writing in her book Olive Kitteridge but have not read many of her other titles. My Name is Lucy Barton was a highly anticipated 2016 book, so I picked up it quickly after its release.
To be honest, I do not want my new rating scale to deter any readers. My Name is Lucy Barton is a good book. If I were just rating it on a five scale, I would probably give it a 4/5. But, I want to be deeper with my ratings – so this is a perfect example of a book that is well-written, unique, and good. And I think many people will love it. I don’t think it will be the best book I will read this year – but I am glad that I read it.
Lucy Barton is a writer, and the book is stories from her perspective, but mostly centered around a period of time she was in the hospital. Her mother came to visit her and stay for five days; this was the first time they had seen each other in many years. While their chit chat seems minuscule, it fills Lucy with memories and questions. Even though it appears that there was substantial abuse in her poverty-filled childhood, she still seeks approval and friendship with her mother – even though they are practically strangers.
Lucy is a character that seeks love and belonging in all relationships and with all people. From her love of her doctor to her children to her relationship with her husband – she wants a tenderness that was missing from her childhood.
Growing up in poverty shaped Lucy in ways that she is only now figuring out as an adult, as she writes and attempts to be a “ruthless writer.” She never knew to be embarrassed by her clothes, or her lack of pop culture knowledge, so she simply is not embarrassed. However, because she grew up with little, she also appreciates having enough and being able to provide for her children. But she knows that money does not always make people happier, a sentiment she shares with her fascinating mother.
This story reminded me how our childhood, our upbringing, cannot be judged by others. Everyone’s is different. But the relationships that people have with their parents are not to be judged. There were so many times that I wanted to shout at Lucy for not asking her mother more – why doesn’t she show more emotion? Or build a new relationship with her? But that relationship is not for me to judge.
Strout tells this story in such a unique way, even though this is a short book (I read it in under 2 hours), it is one that will stay with me.