Elizabeth Strout’s most recent novel is well written and intriguing. Lucy Barton and her estranged mother fill the time as they reminisce on the not-so-good-old-days. They artfully manage to avoid the difficult topics and instead catch up on the town gossip and connect through their memories of others’ lives. Strout brilliantly tells Lucy’s story and the story of her relationship with her mother indirectly. Throughout the book, I was waiting for them to really have it out and get to the bottom of their issues. But they never did. Instead, we witness a common, yet special mother and daughter dynamic. They still love each other and have that unbreakable bond that mothers and daughters often have in spite of their history and not having spoken for years. When it is your mother or daughter, it’s all water under the bridge anyway, right? The real goal sometimes is just acceptance and understanding. It’s almost more real that way. How often to do we choose to ignore our differences with our parents, because we know that part of us really does need them on some level.
I wanted them to have it out for my own curiosity. I wanted to finally know what exactly happened and to what extent Lucy may have been abused. What really went wrong? Why have her parents never really forgiven her for leaving home? Why do they not talk about her father? There were many questions left unanswered, but maybe that is the point.
There is clearly a mother/daughter theme in this book, but another thought-provoking theme is that of where you come from. Do we ever really change? How much does it effect who we are today? As much as Lucy’s life has changed, she is still the girl who grew up poor and hungry, with no tv. Her divorce from her first husband and her subsequent marriage to a man who came from similar beginnings is telling. Do we ever escape where we come from?
I have yet to read Strout’s best-selling novel Olive Kitteridge (still on my shelf!) but rumor has it that it is also very well-written and explores a similar theme: a somewhat depressing mother/daughter relationship.
Overall, this was a quick, easy, interesting read. It was entertaining enough and thought provoking. I am looking forward to reading Olive Kitteridge, if the quality of her writing in this book is any indication; I expect it will also be an enjoyable read.
What are you thoughts and experiences regarding the above mentioned themes? If you’ve read this book, what were your thoughts? Please share in the comments!