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My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel
by Elizabeth Strout

Published: 2016-01-12
Hardcover : 208 pages
30 members reading this now
120 clubs reading this now
21 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 10 of 13 members
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE • A simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the tender relationship between mother and daughter in this extraordinary novel by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys.

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Introduction

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE • A simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the tender relationship between mother and daughter in this extraordinary novel by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys.

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.

Praise for My Name Is Lucy Barton

“There is not a scintilla of sentimentality in this exquisite novel. Instead, in its careful words and vibrating silences, My Name Is Lucy Barton offers us a rare wealth of emotion, from darkest suffering to—‘I was so happy. Oh, I was happy’—simple joy.”—Claire Messud, The New York Times Book Review

“Spectacular . . . Smart and cagey in every way. It is both a book of withholdings and a book of great openness and wisdom. . . . [Strout] is in supreme and magnificent command of this novel at all times.”—Lily King, The Washington Post
 
“A short novel about love, particularly the complicated love between mothers and daughters, but also simpler, more sudden bonds . . . It evokes these connections in a style so spare, so pure and so profound the book almost seems to be a kind of scripture or sutra, if a very down-to-earth and unpretentious one.”—Marion Winik, Newsday
 
“Potent with distilled emotion. Without a hint of self-pity, Strout captures the ache of loneliness we all feel sometimes.”Time

“An aching, illuminating look at mother-daughter devotion.”People

“A quiet, sublimely merciful contemporary novel about love, yearning, and resilience in a family damaged beyond words.”The Boston Globe

“Sensitive, deceptively simple . . . It is Lucy’s gentle honesty, complex relationship with her husband, and nuanced response to her mother’s shortcomings that make this novel so subtly powerful. . . . [It’s] more complex than it first appears, and all the more emotionally persuasive for it.”San Francisco Chronicle

“Strout maps the complex terrain of human relationships by focusing on that which is often unspoken and only implied. . . . A powerful addition to Strout’s body of work.”The Seattle Times

“Impressionistic and haunting . . . [Strout] reminds us of the power of our stories—and our ability to transcend our troubled narratives.”Miami Herald

“Writing of this quality comes from a commitment to listening, from a perfect attunement to the human condition, from an attention to reality so exact that it goes beyond a skill and becomes a virtue.”—Hilary Mantel

“Magnificent.”—Ann Patchett

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of January 2016: Do not be misled by the slimness of this volume, the quietness of its prose, the seeming simplicity of its story line: Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton is as powerful and disturbing as the best of Strout’s work, including the Pulitzer Prizewinning Olive Kitteridge. In fact, it bears much resemblance to that novel-- and to Strout’s debut Amy and Isabelle--in that it deals with small-town women, who are always more complicated than they seem and often less likable than many contemporary heroines. Here, Strout tells the story of a thirtysomething wife and mother who is in the hospital for longer than she expected, recovering from an operation. She’s not dying, but her situation is serious enough that her mother-- whom she has not seen in many years-- arrives at her bedside. The two begin to talk. Their style is undramatic, gentle-- just the simple unspooling of memories between women not generally given to sharing them; still, the accumulation of detail and the repetitive themes of longing and lifelong missed connections add up to revelations that, in another writer’s heavy hands, might be melodramatic. In Strout’s they are anything but. Rarely has a book been louder in its silences, or more plainly and completely devastating. --Sara Nelson

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. Lucy’s husband asked her mother to visit her in the hospital, and paid for her trip. Do you think that was a gesture of love on his part?

2. What role does the gossip Lucy and her mother share play in the book?

3. Do you think Lucy blames her mother for the more painful parts of her childhood? Could her mother have done better?

4. WWII and the Nazis are themes that profoundly affect Lucy’s father (and hence her whole family), Lucy’s marriage to her first husband, and even her dreams. Discuss.

5. Lucy expresses great love for her doctor. How would you describe that love?

6. Lucy’s friend Jeremy told her she needed to be “ruthless as a writer.” Did she take his advice? How?

7. Why did Lucy keep returning again and again to see the marble statue at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

8. How has the poverty of Lucy’s childhood shaped her life and her work?

9. What does living in New York City mean for Lucy? Do you think she feels at home in New York?

10. What did Sarah Payne mean, when she said to Lucy: “We only have one story”? 1. Lucy’s husband asks her mother to visit her in the hospital and pays for her trip. Do you think this is a gesture of love on his part?

2. What role does the gossip Lucy and her mother share play in the book?

3. Do you think Lucy blames her mother for the more painful parts of her childhood? Could her mother have done better?

4. World War II and the Nazis profoundly affect Lucy’s father (and hence her whole family), Lucy’s marriage to her first husband, and even her dreams. Discuss.

5. Lucy expresses great love for her doctor. How would you describe that love?

6. Lucy’s friend Jeremy tells her she needs to be ruthless to be a writer. Does she take his advice? How?

7. Why does Lucy keep returning again and again to see the marble statue at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

8. How has the poverty of Lucy’s childhood shaped her life and her work?

9. What does living in New York City mean for Lucy? Do you think she feels at home in New York?

10. What does Sarah Payne mean when she says to Lucy that we all have only one story?

Suggested by Members

Discuss the significance of the Chrysler Building to Lucy.
by bmedvid (see profile) 09/08/17

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Unbelievable "by lpollinger (see profile) 11/15/19

Lucy is in the hospital with complications from an appendectomy. One day she wakes up to find her mother, who she has been estranged from for many years, sitting at the foot of her bed. This... (read more)

 
by dbublik (see profile) 04/19/19

 
by jnp41125 (see profile) 12/28/18

 
by merrillee (see profile) 04/27/18

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