My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

This was an exquisite story of the relationship between a mother and daughter.

Having read the award winning Olive Kitteridge, I was excited and a little nervous about reading this tale of a troubled relationship between a mother and daughter. Why was I nervous? Because although I loved the endearing Olive Kitteridge, the book left me wanting more from the individual stories. It was full of so many characters and story threads, that each felt unfinished. Olive herself was a joy. I loved her and wished Strout could have given me more of her, making her tale feel more focused. She is without doubt a talented writer and I love how she focuses on characterisation. Her books being quiet tales full of emotion and people, rather than events or big drama.

So I read My Name is Lucy Barton, hoping, that as it had only two main characters, it would feel more complete! Strout plays to her strengths in this book, characterisation and the quiet trauma faced my her main character Lucy and her distant and awkward mother is placed at the centre of her tale. You get the feeling that motherhood came as a trial rather than a natural role for Lucy’s mum, leaving Lucy an insecure figure, worried about her own relationship with her children. Most of the action focuses on Lucy’s recovery in a New York hospital and the sudden appearance of her estranged mother at her bedside. From here, Strout, explores Lucy’s deprived childhood and her eventual escape from an early life damaged by poverty and the emotional distance of her parents. Lucy’s relationship with her mother has always been turbulent and we are shown that no matter how far we run, we are shaped by our childhood and the grounding instilled in us by our parents in our formative years. Because Lucy’s relationship with her mum was dysfunctional and distant, she finds herself an adult who yearns to repair it, to make a emotional connection with the past that continues to haunt and trouble her. When Lucy begins to question the decisions she has made as an adult following her mother’s arrival, the flaws in her own perfect life are exposed and she is forced to address how far she has come, from the life she thought she had left behind.

I enjoyed Strout’s tale of a daughter yearning to connect with her mother. Of a mother who seeks to care for her daughter. Both of whom are damaged, but about both of whom there is much to love. Strout’s books leave you feeling oddly disquieted, because that is the nature of life, we are all of us questioning if we are good enough, mothers, sons, daughters and fathers. Strout is a writer who understands our natures better than we do ourselves.

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