My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

lucy bartonSometime in the middle 1980s, Lucy Barton goes in the hospital for a routine appendectomy, but an infection extends her stay by several weeks.  Being a young mother, she misses her two daughters and husband.  Then her long-estranged mother comes to stay with her for a few days, and Lucy has to rethink most of her conceptions – about family, about love and its elusive presence, and about her painful past.

The oddness of her mother’s visit is that she is there at all – wrested up, as it were, from her small Illinois town to the strangeness of a Manhattan hospital room.  The oddness continues when her mom, tentatively at first, begins to talk about her life, and Lucy begins to understand a stronger connection with this person in her room, an individual that Lucy largely forgot when she left for college.

My Name is Lucy Barton is a set of musings in which a sickbed becomes a psychiatrist’s couch and an extended illness becomes cathartic to growth, if not complete reconciliation.  The visit is a necessary thing for both mother and daughter, and there is certainly a change between the two, but distances remain.  Even as the book is brief and a fairly easy read, “easy” is not the tone.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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