a bookclique pick by Stacey Loscalzo
I would like to be Ann Patchett when I grow up. Therefore, when I learned that her bookstore, Parnassus Books, offered a book subscription service, I signed up immediately. My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout was the first Parnassus First Edition Club selection to land on my doorstep. I did not read Olive Kitteridge or Burgess Boys, Strout’s earlier works, so I probably would not have picked up Lucy Barton on my own. And that would have been a terrible mistake.
My Name Is Lucy Barton tells the story of Lucy and her estranged mother. Lucy has been in the hospital for weeks, recovering from an infection, when she wakes one day to find her mother sitting at the foot of her bed. As we read, we learn that Lucy’s childhood was fraught with trouble. Poverty for sure. Neglect no doubt. Abuse most likely. Lucy and her mother had danced around each other for years. Seemingly until those days in the hospital when “She talked in a way I didn’t remember, as though a pressure of feeling and words and observations had been stuffed down inside her for years, and her voice was breathy and unselfconscious.”
My Name Is Lucy Barton moves seamlessly from the hospital room to Lucy’s childhood and for short moments to Lucy’s world after her mother leaves and she is discharged from the hospital. While this book is a story of childhood, of family, of memory it is also the story of books and reading and writing, for Lucy is a novelist and Strout writes lovingly of both books and the process of creating them. She writes, “My teacher saw that I loved reading, and she gave me books, even grown-up books, and I read them. And then later in high school I still read books, when my homework was done in the warm school. But the books brought me things. This is my point. They made me feel less alone. And I thought: I will write and people will not feel so alone.”
Thank goodness that Lucy chose to write and more importantly that Elizabeth Strout made the same choice.