Thursday, May 4, 2017

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Published April 2017 by Random House Publishing
Source: my copy courtesy through the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others.

Here are two sisters: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband while the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. The janitor at the local school has his faith tested in an encounter with an isolated man he has come to help; a grown daughter longs for mother love even as she comes to accept her mother’s happiness in a foreign country; and the adult Lucy Barton (the heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the author’s celebrated New York Times bestseller) returns to visit her siblings after seventeen years of absence.

My Thoughts:
So it's a book by Elizabeth Strout. I'm reading it and I don't even need to read a summary to know that. Which means I went into this book with absolutely no clue what it was. Which is often a good thing. In this case, it was a bit of a jolt when I started reading and, all of a sudden Lucy Barton was in the story. And by a bit of a jolt, I mean I wasn't sure at all that I liked it. I wondered if Strout had decided to take an easy out and just use some leftover material.

But, wait. What if Lucy's hometown of Amgash has stayed with her and she wanted to visit the people in that town more closely? Or, is she just brilliant and planned it all along? I don't know. I just know that it didn't take me very long to get over my initial hesitation.

There is nothing flashy about Strout's writing. There are no gripping plots nor literary gymnasts (ala Michael Chabon). Instead, not a word is wasted in these quiet stories of people in pain, people hiding secrets.

Charlie McCauley, for example, who has fallen out of love with his wife:
"The very stuff that would make him roll his eyes now - her utter foolishness, the useless, nauseating softness that lay at the center of her - had thrilled him quietly that day with a rush of love and protectiveness as the autumn smell of earth filled him, kneeling there with the trowel."
Despite her economy of words, Strout still paints vivid pictures.
"Panic, like a large minnow darting upstream, moved back and forth inside him. He was suddenly as homesick as a child sent to stay with relatives: when the furniture seemed large and dark and strange, and the smell peculiar, each detail assaultive with a differentness that was almost unbearable. I want to go home, he thought."
This is how you write damaged characters. And this is how you treat them with compassion,  without glossing over their flaws. Every person has a story. Elizabeth Strout is brilliant in the way she tells those stories.



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