The profound mother-daughter bond is explored through a mother's hospital visit to her estranged daughter by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys.
A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. Her bestselling novels, including Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, have illuminated our most tender relationships. Now, in My Name Is Lucy Barton, this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all - the one between mother and daughter.
Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy's childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy's life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.
There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks. This was in New York City, and at night a view of the Chrysler Building, with its geometric brilliance of lights, was directly visible from my bed. During the day, the building's beauty receded, and gradually it became simply one more large structure against a blue sky, and all the city's buildings seemed remote, silent, far away. It was May, and then June, and I remember how I would stand and look out the window at the sidewalk below and watch the young womenmy agein their spring clothes, out on their lunch breaks; I could see their heads moving in conversation, their blouses rippling in the breeze. I thought how when I got out of the hospital I would never again walk down the sidewalk without giving thanks for being one of those people, and for many years I did thatI would remember the view from the hospital window and be glad for the sidewalk I was ...
Strout's genius is to pack so much rich emotion into such a short work, and to do so with simple, uncomplicated language – something that, in my opinion, few authors are able to achieve. It is very possible, of course, that her expertise in writing short stories contributes heavily to this (as demonstrated by her Pulitzer Prize winning collection Olive Kittredge).
(Reviewed by Davida Chazan).
Many of the reviews of Strout's latest novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, have called it a "slim volume." Some might even say that its length of just over 200 pages makes it a novella not a novel. This raises the question, what page/word count defines a novel?
Opinions on this differ widely. For example, Writer's Digest suggests to writers who want to submit manuscripts in the adult fiction, commercial and literary genres, that a book with fewer than 70,000 words might be too short, and recommends that authors should aim for between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Assuming an average of 250-300 words per page an 80,000 word novel would have about 290 pages and a 100,000 word novel would stretch across about 360 pages.
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