Amgash is the hometown of Lucy Barton and the small town where these short stories take place. This collection of short stories, while still being able to be read on their own, should really be read after reading “My Name is Lucy Barton”.
You will soon notice that the stories are connected by the characters. Nothing fantastical happens in the stories, they are more examples of everyday life situations, concentrating on the characters feelings and emotions.
Each of the characters is struggling with something in their life. Most of these struggles involve the character’s past or childhood and how this has shaped them as an adult.
It is wonderful to be able to expand on stories, characters, and anecdotes that Lucy and her mother conversed about for five days and nights in “My Name is Lucy Barton”. And like the previous book the question of the reliability of memories is asked. And just like the first book there is again the topic of class and poverty, and the issue of people believing that they are better than those poorer than themselves.
What I loved about this collection is the structure. The way characters drift from their own story into another character’s. The next story in line, a character who was perhaps ancillary in the previous story is now the main character and we may get their perspective on the same event. It works brilliantly and gives the feel that all the stories are joined, and the collection is in fact one novel.
What makes the experience even better is going back and rereading “My Name is Lucy Barton” straight after this. All the connections and the characters relationships, their problems, their secrets.
It would not work as well if Strout did not write such wonderful characters. They are all deep, rich, real, characters. All with their own life problems. All just trying to get by. Strout has that gift of writing characters who you feel a deep connection to. Emotionally tied to them.
Even with a cast of many diverse characters, you never find yourself lost, somehow Strout keeps everything tight, with, as I said before, characters popping in from other stories, jogging your memory. It truly is all connected superbly.
I would say by now, if you are reading this than you have probably already read this collection, so I won’t go into any of the stories. But if you have not read this, or the first book, I thoroughly recommend them both.
Two of the most enjoyable books I have read for some time. I am now off to read the third. 😊
Elizabeth Strout is the author of several novels, including: Abide with Me, a national bestseller and BookSense pick, and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. In 2009 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her book Olive Kitteridge. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker. She teaches at the Master of Fine Arts program at Queens University of Charlotte.