Friday, December 2, 2022

Lucy By The Sea by Elizabeth Strout

Lucy By The Sea
by Elizabeth Strout
304 Pages
Published September 2022 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary: 
As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it’s just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea. 

Rich with empathy and emotion, Lucy by the Sea vividly captures the fear and struggles that come with isolation, as well as the hope, peace, and possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire. At the heart of this story are the deep human connections that unite us even when we’re apart—the pain of a beloved daughter’s suffering, the emptiness that comes from the death of a loved one, the promise of a new friendship, and the comfort of an old, enduring love.

My Thoughts: 
“One proof of Elizabeth Strout’s greatness is the sleight of hand with which she injects sneaky subterranean power into seemingly transparent prose. Strout works in the realm of everyday speech, conjuring repetitions, gaps and awkwardness with plain language and forthright diction, yet at the same time unleashing a tidal urgency that seems to come out of nowhere even as it operates in plain sight.”—The New York Times Book Review

If you've been around any time at all here, you already know that I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth Strout's work. I was introduced to her with Olive Kitteridge, thirteen years ago; and I've since read five more of her books between that one and this one. You wouldn't' have to have read those same six books before reading this one; but it does make reading it that much more fun, as Strout routinely references characters from previous books in her current books. Here the Burgess brothers(The Burgess Boys), Olive Kitteridge (also from Olive Again) and several other characters from those books reappear, as well as the characters from the three Lucy Barton books that proceeded this one. It's one of the things I so enjoy about Strout's books. It's like catching up with old friends when you come upon them in other books, old friends it is clear that Strout isn't ready to say goodbye to just yet. Rightly so - they are marvelous, nuanced, relatable characters. 

But what I most love about Strout's books is her completely unique writing style, a style that, as the quote above says, incorporates everyday speech, repetitions, gaps, awkwardness. There is nothing flowery about Strout's writing and yet it manages to paint every bit as vivid a picture of her characters and settings as books twice as long. 

Just when I thought that I was beginning to agree with Kirkus Reviews on the regular, I, once again, find myself completely disagreeing with them about this one. They called this book a "disappointment" and said Strout's voice was "positively worn out." To be fair, at this point we know these characters - that initial spark that readers feel when they find new characters they grow fond of is gone. Which feels a little bit like the point to me. 

William and Lucy have known each other for decades, they've been married and divorced and they're girls are grown adults. The spark of new love is gone. But there is a comfort, when they find themselves isolated together, with being with someone you know so well. Especially when there are, in fact, some new things to learn about that person. I learned new things about these characters in Lucy By The Sea, while being comforted by meeting these old friends again. There was nothing disappointing about this book for me. 

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