Sunday, September 25, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

I love Elizabeth’s Strout’s writing. She brings her characters so fully to life. I’ve been following the story of this protagonist, Lucy Barton, through a few novels and I was thrilled to receive the latest book, Lucy by the Sea, for review.

Picking up where Oh, William! leaves off, Lucy is mourning the recent death of her adored husband while settling into a comfortable friendship with the ex-husband, William, who broke her heart so many years before. William is dealing with a lot of baggage of his own, mostly stemming from the many “endings” associated with aging and regrets for actions in his past, but he’s also experiencing the excitement of a new beginning – discovering he has a half-sister he never knew.

And then the pandemic hits.

This is largely a pandemic novel, but it incorporates Lucy and her family, characters that I have grown to know and love and be frustrated with. As the novel opens, it’s March 2020 and things are just beginning to get weird. Lucy lives in New York, as does William. William is a scientist so he understands things are going to get bad long before Lucy has any inkling. He tells his two adult children to get out of New York City and then he tells Lucy to pack a bag – he’s taking her to Maine. 

Lucy isn’t given a whole lot of choice in the matter. She’s bewildered. But he’s so insistent that she reluctantly goes, assuming it will only be for a week or two. Of course, the pandemic goes from bad to worse.

It’s traumatizing and surreal to read this and remember, and to some extent relive, those early days of Covid. Lucy and William are locked down in a strange place, away from loved ones. People they know get sick. Some die. They make new, socially distanced friends, but everything is strange and a little unreal. At the same time, they continue to deal with family turmoil. And, sweetly and poignantly, they reconnect with one another.

These relationships are not perfect. The family dysfunction is intergenerational and the scars run deep. But there is also a great deal of love between the characters and true kindness. A lot of understanding comes with age.

I don’t read much contemporary/relationship types of novels. But I will read everything Elizabeth Strout writes.

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