By Elizabeth Strout
A Brilliant Exploration of Human Experiences, Feelings and Imperfections
Lucy Barton is swept away from her rooted life in Manhattan in the early days of the pandemic to a small coastal town in Maine. Her ex-husband William Gerhardt is a scientist, aware of the virus's potential. He rented a cottage for the both of them to ride out the pandemic, and he ushered a despondent Lucy out of town.
Lucy and William have two grown and married daughters who live in Manhattan. William did his best to convince both girls to leave the city. William has always been there for Lucy and the girls whenever they needed him, and they always needed him. Lucy had lost her second husband just a year earlier and was still recovering from that loss when the pandemic hits. Little did she know when she left New York that she would never see her apartment again or that so many would die, including family and friends.
“What is strange as I look back is how I simply did not know what was happening.”
When reading LUCY BY THE SEA, I could not help but feel like I was sitting on that old red lumpy couch in the cottage, sharing stories and a cup of coffee with Lucy. She was like an old friend sharing her intimate thoughts and feelings with me. We both are worried about our families and about getting older and forgetful. I loved hearing her intriguing stories and her willingness to share her family’s emotional experiences during these challenging times.
I purposely read this novel very slowly because I knew I would not want it to end, and I was right. It ended much too soon. The story is uncomplicated and easy to read, and Strout's writing is emotionally rich and rewarding. This book is not really about the pandemic but rather is a thought-provoking exploration of the reactions we had to the experience of living through such a challenging time.
Strout’s insight into her characters is remarkable. Both Lucy and William’s characters are delightfully well-developed. Their essence distinctly captures the turbulent emotions and uncertainty of the time. The days are marked by their feelings of loneliness, isolation, fear, anxiety, loss, and grief. But they also find joy in family, friendships, and love. Lucy Barton and I are really good friends now, and I can't wait to have another chat with her. This visit was much too short.
Strout has written nine additional literary works that brilliantly explore human experiences, feelings and imperfections. Two of this nine feature Lucy Barton. They are My Name is Lucy Barton (2016) and Oh William! (2021). Strout’s book Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 and was followed by Olive, Again in 2019.
Thanks to Netgalley and Random House for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I also listened to the audiobook, which was fabulously performed by Kimberly Farr, who succeeded in bringing Lucy and William to life.
Publisher Random House
Published September 20, 2022