Quite simply this novel is interchangeable with the two previous “Lucy” novels (I have not read the fourth yet).
This, depending on your taste, will either delight or disappoint you. Although if you did not like the first book, then you are probably not going to read this one.
I am firmly in the “delight” camp. For me Strout’s writing is unbelievably “readable”. That may not read as the best endorsement for the book, but it sums up how I feel. Since starting the first one, I feel as though I have been living with Lucy and the inhabitants of Amgash.
I feel their pain, their fears. I cringe when Lucy has an anxiety attack. I laugh at William’s pants being too short. Strout has done what most authors strive for, but few achieve, at least completely. She immerses the reader into her world.
I forget about the Ukraine, I forget about lions escaping zoos, I even forget about floods. And isn’t this the goal, the true purpose of fiction. To transport the reader away from reality and sit them down in a world created by the author.
With this third book, Lucy starts to add colour to the outline that is her former husband, William. From Lucy’s thoughts and memories, and from other characters in the previous books, we have learnt a little about William. But with this third book, Lucy narrows her focus to William, and we find out much more.
However, it is more about Lucy’s relationship with William than with William the character. We find why they have remained so close after Lucy walked away from their marriage.
I think that the strength of this novel and the others is Lucy. This is also it’s biggest weakness. Lucy’s character is such a dominant part of Strout’s world that if the reader dislikes the character, it will be difficult to enjoy the story.
For me, Lucy is one of the most enjoyable, readable characters I have read in a long while. Coming from crippling poverty and a difficult childhood, she has lived and “grown” into a successful writer. And yet at her core, she still retains that fragility, that brittleness. At times it feels like she is a pane of glass that may shatter from one tiny crack.
I am glad that I have found Lucy and can’t wait to meet Oliver.
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.
MY RATING -