Elizabeth Strout’s third book is out and its part of our book club’s 2017 list. I consider myself very fortunate to be part of Plano Library’s book club which has tremendously enriched my life over the last 5 years, introducing me to great books, wonderful authors, and endearing friendships. Yes, books do bring us together.
I finished this book overnight (which is quite rare for me), partly because its good and partly because it’s a simple, short read, only 200 pages. I liked it more than Stout’s earlier book “The Burgess Boys” and much more than her most famous “Olive Kittridge” which I abandoned half way through because it was so unnecessarily bleak. I can understand sadness if its for a reason like Lucy Barton’s sadness but the habitual sadness and self pity …the Olive Kittiridge kind of sadness despite having a decent life, NO I don’t get it.
This book’s beautiful and direct prose catches on to the reader right from the beginning. Here are some very tender moments and lines that are my favorite:
1. “But the books brought me things. This is my point. And I thought: I will write and people will not feel so alone.”
2. “Get your fever down, keep some solid food down, and we can send you home”. I said “Yes sir” and didn’t look at him. His voice was different enough that he might have slapped me with each word. I have learned this: A person gets tired. the mind and the soul and whatever word we have for whatever is not just the body gets tired, and this, I have decided is – usually, mostly – nature helping us. I was getting tired. I think – but I don’t know – that he was getting tired too.
3. At our small wedding reception she said to a friend of hers, “This is Lucy.” She added, almost playfully, “Lucy comes from nothing.” I took no offence, and really, I take no offence now. But I think: No one comes from nothing.
4. In my doctor’s office, he had people in his waiting room, people in the examining rooms, then in his own office, a sort of conveyor belt of many kinds of human material.
5. This is me, and I will not go where I can’t bear to go – to Amgash, Illinois – and I will not stay in a marriage when I don’t want to, and I will grab myself and hurl onward through life, blind as a bat, but on I got. This is the ruthlessness, I think. Perhaps I was already ruthless.
6. Mom, when you write a novel you get to rewrite it, but when you live with someone for twenty years, that is a novel, and you can never write that novel with anyone again.
7. My daughter said, not long ago, about the husband I have now: “I love him Mom, but I hope he dies in his sleepand then my stepmom can die too, and you and Dad will get back together.”