In a mere 140 pages Elizabeth Strout introduces us to Lucy Barton: the poverty of her youth, her upbringing bordering on abuse and neglect, her struggle to fit into middle class society, her troubled relationship with her parents and her love for her family. Lucy Barton looks back on her life, mostly concentrating on a long stay in the hospital. When her mother unexpectedly arrives at this hospital, Lucy is reminded of her youth back home. It also makes her think about the contrast between the love she feels for her mother and her total inability to express this love.
Lucy Barton is a subtle novel. Strout is not the one to confront us with explicit descriptions of abuse and cruelty, she merely hints at them. Strout paints the picture of a woman who despite everything has not stopped loving her parents. She shows us how Lucy tries to please her mother whilst maintaining her own independence, her own life. Strout also shows us, that love cannot be defined linearly, as said before, loves moves in mysterious ways.
My Name is Lucy Barton is simple, straightforward and subtle all at the same time. I like the simplicity and subtlety of it. Refusing to become explicit and thereby leaving things to the imagination of her readers the cruelty in Lucy’s youth hit me hard. Strout chose not to bludgeon me into submission with detailed descriptions of violence and abuse, thereby parallelling the reader’s experience with the main character’s life. She does not need to, the person of Lucy tells it all: not knowing how to be socially acceptable, still trying to please her mother, still not being able to confront what happened to her. Strout in a mere 140 pages has created the unforgettable image of a woman who has taken years to escape from her youth. I personally am very glad Stout chose implicitness, I prefer this subtlety over being bombarded with gory details. Lucy Barton has made an impact on me, I was sorry to turn the last page.