Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Elizabeth Strout explores the complex relationship between mothers and daughters in “My Name Is Lucy Barton.” Lucy is the narrator and reflexes back in time to her early childhood in Amgash, Illinois, her extended stay in the hospital, and her life in the present.
In the 1980s, Lucy was admitted to the hospital for a simple operation–removable of her appendix. Unfortunately, something when wrong, but none of the doctors could determine what was causing Lucy to be unable to eat solid foods. Days became weeks and weeks turned into months. Lucy was weak and feverish. She had a husband and two daughters at home and missed them a great deal.
Lucy did not have a close relationship with her mother. They seldom spoke or saw one another, but Lucy’s husband decided to ask Lucy’s mother to come to New York and stay with Lucy while she is in the hospital. During this surprising visit, Lucy and her mother talk about people they both knew back in Amgash. Her mother tells Lucy the local gossip, and tales about the troubles and woes of people back home.
Strout captures the voice of these two characters. But underlying what appears to be simple conversation is a great deal of tension. Lucy has escaped her troubled family and has fulfilled goals of marriage, motherhood, and a career. What she doesn’t have and wants is a relationship with her mother that is loving.
Told is extremely unsentimental, sparse language, “My Name is Lucy Barton” is a novel that explores the depth of human feelings.