Because Elizabeth Strout has built worlds with very different protagonists, and because two of those worlds (at least) eventually bump into each other, Ms. Strout’s books are being summarized here – to help me plot worlds and characters and how they interact more than for any other reason.
For those who don’t know, the two main protagonists I’m talking about are Olive Kitteridge and Lucy Barton. Olive lives in Maine, and Lucy lives in New York City. Lucy’s books are sometimes called the Amgash series, named after the fictional town where Lucy grew up in grinding poverty, admidst the soybean fields of rural Illinois.
Olive Kitteridge (2008) the first of the Olive Kitteridge series, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was a finalist for that year’s National Book Critics Circle Award.
Lucy by the Sea (2022) has been shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize.
Other awards can be found on awards page of the author’s website.
My Name is Lucy Barton (2016)
This is the first Elizabeth Strout book I read – first a few years ago, pre-pandemic, and again after reading My Name is Lucy Barton. This story moves back and forth in time, from the hospital room in which adult Lucy struggles to recover from a lingering illness in the present day to Lucy’s dismal childhood. Lucy’s mother has been called to her bedside by Lucy’s husband William.
Anything is Possible (2017)
Although the audiobook plays like a novel, this is actually a short story collection. I don’t like short story collections, and I’m glad I couldn’t tell that this was one.
Oh, William! ( 2021)
Adult Lucy Barton reflects on her marriages and her family in an engaging novel.
Lucy by the Sea (2022)
Lucy has the privilege of living out the pandemic in a big house on a cliff in Maine, on the ocean, with her ex-husband William. This book might just feature a few characters from the world of Olive Kitteridge.
Olive Kitteridge (2008)
Middle-aged Olive Kitteridge is cranky, pragmatic, bitchy most of the time, but she is also kind and deeply loving in her own flawed way, as she struggles through her relationships with her husband Henry and her son Christopher.
Olive, Again (2019)
Now Olive has reached old age, and must adapt her relationships with family members and friends as she is forced to acknowledge the betrayals of her aging body.
Other Works (Not yet read; this info will be updated):
The Burgess Boys (2013 – Shirley Falls, Maine)
Amy and Isabelle (1998 – Shirley Falls, Maine)
Abide With Me (2006)