‘Lucy Barton’ offers readers magic

Posted February 18, 2016


Many teas, especially whole-leaf green and oolong teas, can be infused multiple times, but each time you serve can get a little bit different taste. That’s the feeling “My Name is Lucy Barton” will bring to its reader, a novel definitely worth reading.

Elizabeth Strout, an American novelist and short story writer, is also a New York Times bestseller. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her book “Olive Kitteridge.” Later, a HBO mini-series has won six awards at the 2015 Prime time Emmy Awards based on this book. “My Name is Lucy Barton” is the newest book of Elizabeth Strout and is the only one written in the first person.

The story is all about Lucy Barton, a mother of two little girls who was staying at a hospital to recover after an operation.

Surprisingly, her mother, who is estranged from Lucy for many years, showed up and kept her accompany for a week.

Those conversations between the mother and daughter during this unusual visit in many ways explains Lucy’s desire to escape from her childhood family and from her marriage. From those conversations, the reader can feel Lucy’s love to her girls and her passion to become a writer.

The novel has magic. Once the reader starts to read it, they will completely be absorbed into it. It will helps the reader to be isolated from their own surroundings when reading the novel. And feels like they are just lying on a bed having a casual chat with their mother or a family member.

Although the story to some extent is placid, it is really touching and full of emotion behind the words. No matter if the reader is estranged from their own mother or not, they can always find some sort of connection from the novel.

Lucy begins to feel safe while her mother was around her at the hospital. “Her being there, using my pet name, which I had not heard in ages, made me feel warm and liquid-filled, as though all my tension had been a solid thing and now was not. ”Lucy is a daughter who loves her mother deep down in her heart although with the memory about her poor and unhappy childhood.

She is also a daughter who wants the approval and love from her mother so desperately but has hidden her needs from herself within a long period. “I feel that people may not understand that my mother could never say the words I love you. I feel that people may not understand: it was all right.” A period which was long enough to effect her view about the others even the world, and to let her knew that her mother will never say the words verbally so Lucy became used to it.

Strout lets Lucy Barton speak her own life stories. There is a burning heart inside Strout’s words that were not just some cold words typed by the machine. It is easy for the reader to form a three dimensional figures about the characters. The way that the author introduced and described the characters was so vivid and gave the reader a good visual about the whole story.

From the sentence which Lucy Barton described her friend Jeremy, “he would smile and lift his hat in a way that was courtly and old-fashioned and European,” the reader probably would see a man standing on the street and waving his hat to greet Lucy.

Stories have been told from Lucy’s past, and from them the more loneliness the reader can sense from her. Instead of saying she was sad about her past that she was used to it would be more preferable. For protecting herself, Lucy has built a wall between her and her mom, and maybe her past. At some point, it looks like the boundary has been blurred and fades away.

But the reality is the wall just hidden more deeper into Lucy’s heart and never leave her alone. “Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden inside the crevices of my mouth, reminding me.” That kind of loneliness has almost made Lucy lose herself.

But fortunately, as a writer, Lucy Barton finds herself and her one and only story eventually. She said “This one is my story. This one. And my name is Lucy Barton.”

  • “My Name is Lucy Barton”
  • By Elizabeth Strout
  • Hardcover, 191 pages
  • Price: $26
  • Published: Jan. 12, 2016 by Random House (first published Jan. 6, 2016)
  • ISBN: 1400067693 (ISBN13: 9781400067695)