Booklist Reviews 2015 November #2
*Starred Review* Lucy Barton recalls her months-long stay in the hospital after suffering complications during a routine appendectomy. Her husband, overwhelmed with job and child-care responsibilities, summons Lucy's mother to stay with her, though they have long been estranged. Within the confines of her hospital room, Lucy and her mother seek to find common ground, gossiping about the neighbors in the small, rural town of Amgash, Illinois, where Lucy was raised. In this way, they avoid talking about the central event of Lucy's life, her impoverished childhood. Obliquely, the harsh details are revealed: Lucy was frequently hungry, dirty, and terrorized by her abusive father. She felt isolated, ashamed, and fearful, feelings that still surface in adulthood. It seems a small miracle that she escaped to college, got married, had children, and became a writer while her siblings remained mired in dysfunction. She never confronts her mother about the fact that she failed to protect Lucy; indeed, though they seem incapable of expressing it, their love for each other is palpable. In a compact novel brimming with insight and emotion, Strout relays with great tenderness and sadness the way family relationships can both make and break us.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Anticipation will be high for a new novel by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
PW Reviews 2015 October #3
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. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Literary Agency. (Jan.)[Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC