My Name is Lucy Barton

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Elizabeth Strout – 2016 – Amgash Series #1

What a compassionately told story.

Lucy, in a New York City hospital bed, is visited by her mother who has traveled from the small farming town of Amgash, Illinois. Although the older woman is sometimes judgmental and brusque, mother and daughter converse easily, with smiles and laughter. By mutual unspoken agreement, the reminiscing that takes place is about other people, and it doesn’t dip below the shallow surface of gentle gossip.

Lucy’s first-person internal reflections dive deeper. We meet the other two Barton children as we witness the shame of their childhood in Amgash: the struggle in school and at home, always hungry, often cold, bullied and teased by classmates, and starved for affection by her parents – one damaged by war and one with an unexplained cruel streak.

Elizabeth Strout’s careful prose, narrated perfectly by Kimberly Farr, points no fingers. Instead it paints a picture, and in that painting we see evidence of cruelty, brokenness, and the very occasional ray of light that is compassion.

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