Excerpt from Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Anything Is Possible

Amgash Series #2

by Elizabeth Strout

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout X
Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2017, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2018, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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Still, on a spring morning as this one was, the smell of the soil brought back to him the smells of the cows, the moisture of their nostrils, the warmth of their bellies, and his barns—­he had had two barns—­and he let his mind roll over pieces of scenes that came to him. Perhaps because he had just passed the Barton place he thought of the man, Ken Barton, who had been the father of those poor, sad children, and who had worked on and off for Tommy, and then he thought—­as he more often did—­of Lucy, who had left for college and then ended up in New York City. She had become a writer.

Lucy Barton.

Driving, Tommy shook his head slightly. Tommy knew many things as a result of being the janitor in that school more than thirty years; he knew of girls' pregnancies and drunken mothers and cheating spouses, for he overheard these things talked about by the students in their small huddles by the bathrooms, or near the cafeteria; in many ways he was invisible, he understood that. But Lucy Barton had troubled him the most. She and her sister, Vicky, and her brother, Pete, had been viciously scorned by the other kids, and by some of the teachers too. Yet because Lucy stayed after school so often for so many years he felt—­though she seldom spoke—­that he knew her the best. One time when she was in the fourth grade, it was his first year working there, he had opened the door to a classroom and found her lying on three chairs pushed together, over near the radiators, her coat as a blanket, fast asleep. He had stared at her, watching her chest move slightly up and down, seen the dark circles beneath her eyes, her eyelashes spread like tiny twinkling stars, for her eyelids had been moist as though she had been weeping before she slept, and then he backed out slowly, quietly as he could; it had felt almost unseemly to come upon her like that.

But one time—­he remembered this now—­she must have been in junior high school, and he'd walked into the classroom and she was drawing on the blackboard with chalk. She stopped as soon as he stepped inside the room. "You go ahead," he said. On the board was a drawing of a vine with many small leaves. Lucy moved away from the blackboard, then she suddenly spoke to him. "I broke the chalk," she said. Tommy told her that was fine. "I did it on purpose," she said, and there was a tiny glint of a smile before she looked away. "On purpose?" he asked, and she nodded, again with the tiny smile. So he went and picked up a piece of chalk, a full stick of it, and he snapped it in half and winked at her. In his memory she had almost giggled. "You drew that?" he asked, pointing to the vine with the small leaves. And she shrugged then and turned away. But usually, she was just sitting at a desk and reading, or doing her homework, he could see that she was doing that.

He pulled up to a stop sign now, and said the words aloud to himself quietly, "Lucy, Lucy, Lucy B. Where did you go to, how did you flee?"

He knew how. In the spring of her senior year, he had seen her in the hallway after school, and she had said to him, so suddenly open-­faced, her eyes big, "Mr. Guptill, I'm going to college!" And he had said, "Oh, Lucy. That's wonderful." She had thrown her arms around him; she would not let go, and so he hugged her back. He always remembered that hug, because she had been so thin; he could feel her bones and her small breasts, and because he wondered later how much—­how little—­that girl had ever been hugged.

Tommy pulled away from the stop sign and drove into the town; right there beyond was a parking space. Tommy pulled in to it, got out of his car, and squinted in the sunshine. "Tommy Guptill," shouted a man, and, turning, Tommy saw Griff Johnson walking toward him with his characteristic limp, for Griff had one leg that was shorter than the other, and even his built-­up shoe could not keep him from limping. Griff had an arm out, ready to shake hands. "Griffith," said Tommy, and they pumped their arms for a long time, while cars drove slowly past them down Main Street. Griff was the insurance man here in town, and he had been awfully good to Tommy; learning that Tommy had not insured his farm for its worth, Griff had said, "I met you too late," which was true. But Griff, with his warm face, and big belly now, continued to be good to Tommy. In fact, Tommy did not know anyone—­he thought—­who was not good to him. As a breeze moved around them, they spoke of their children and grandchildren; Griff had a grandson who was on drugs, which Tommy thought was very sad, and he just listened and nodded, glancing up at the trees that lined Main Street, their leaves so young and bright green, and then he listened about another grandson who was in medical school now, and Tommy said, "Hey, that's just great, good for him," and they clapped hands on each other's shoulders and moved on.

Excerpted from Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. Copyright © 2017 by Elizabeth Strout. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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