After waiting many weeks to download My Name is Lucy Barton by Pulitzer prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout, I finally received the book from the library the other day—and read it in an afternoon. At less than two hundred pages it was a quick read but most of the context involved reading between the lines. Written in the first person, Lucy describes a lengthy hospital stay in New York City resulting from complications during a routine operation for appendicitis. Her two young daughters are taken care of at home by their father who has an aversion to hospitals and summons Lucy’s estranged mother to sit by her bedside.
As Lucy describes her mother’s arrival and stoical stay sitting in a chair for five days, eschewing offers of a cot by hospital staff, the two women reach an understanding of their relationship through reminiscences of old neighbours, friends and acquaintances. Missing her own daughters terribly, Lucy attempts to recreate with her own mother the type of affection and intimacy she shares with her little girls. While her mother concedes some emotional ground begrudgingly, their relationship is forever coloured and affected by unspoken and undescribed forms of child abuse Lucy and her siblings endured as children. Their father, a veteran of World War II and the Battle of the Bulge is forever damaged and this in some way permits the children a level of forgiveness for their troubled childhood. The abuse perpetrated by the parents is referred to in vague references but not fully explained and is left to the imagination of the reader. If you enjoy well-written stories of introspection by women about mother-daughter relationships, you’ll find My Name is Lucy Barton to be a worthwhile read.
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