‘My Name is Lucy Barton’ by Elizabeth Strout

Mother & Daughter
Mother Daughter

Hmm . . . Good then it dissolves into vignettes . . .

It is a book which sometimes comes back to me in flashes.  I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it.  Lucy has an extended stay in hospital.  I found the mother-daughter part of the story made me think.  We all relate to our own personal experiences and I definitely got twinges when I related my mother’s attitude to Lucy’s mother – although my relationship was different.  I didn’t like her father, troubled but not nice.

Much of Lucy’s early family life came out in tiny bits here and there.  The trickle affect showed the reader the cruel hardship of her earlier life. Is that why Lucy was estranged?  It was interesting how Lucy loved her kind doctor, she got no real love or compassion from her father or her husband.  The author Sarah Payne was a great character, I wish she had been fleshed out a bit more.  I liked her comment after that cutting PTSD remark “…And anyone who uses their training to put someone down that way – well, that person is just a big old piece of crap.”

After Lucy came out of hospital, the story took on the quality of snapshots as though author Elizabeth Strout saw or heard someone say something and jotted it down then couldn’t quite flesh it out but wanted to use it anyway.  There are very human insights but we don’t even know what Lucy wrote in her books.  Lucy’s relationship with her grown-up daughters was rather superficial but I liked the unnerving chapter about her brother, and also when she is bothered by the fact that Jeremy may have been the dying AIDS patient she saw in hospital.  The marble statue of Ugolino and His Sons by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux in the Metropolitan Museum of Art fascinated Lucy but I couldn’t understand why.  It’s graphic but to me just shows the agony of imprisonment.

Overall, I guess I’d give this book three stars out of five because I’m not poetic enough to read between the lines!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Ugolino and Sons Statue NYC
Ugolino