Fiction. Literature. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER â?˘ Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout explores the mysteries of marriage and the secrets we keep, as a former couple reckons with where theyâ??ve come fromâ??and what theyâ??ve left behind. ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Maureen Corrigan, NPRâ??s Fresh Air â?˘ ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Time, Vulture, She Reads â??Elizabeth Strout is one of my very favorite writers, so the fact that Oh William! may well be my favorite of her books is a mathematical equation for joy. The depth, complexity, and love contained in these pages is a miraculous achievement.â?â??Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House I would like to say a few things about my first husband, William. Lucy Barton is a writer, but her ex-husband, William, remains a hard man to read. William, she confesses, has always been a mystery to me. Another mystery is why the two have remained connected after all these years. They just are. So Lucy is both surprised and not surprised when William asks her to join him on a trip to investigate a recently uncovered family secretâ??one of those secrets that rearrange everything we think we know about the people closest to us. What happens next is nothing less than another example of what Hilary Mantel has called Elizabeth Stroutâ??s â??perfect attunement to the human condition.â? There are fears and insecurities, simple joys and acts of tenderness, and revelations about affairs and other spouses, parents and their children. On every page of this exquisite novel we learn more about the quiet forces that hold us togetherâ??even after weâ??ve grown apart. At the heart of this story is the indomitable voice of Lucy Barton, who offers a profound, lasting reflection on the very nature of existence. â??This is the way of life,â? Lucy says: â??th
Elizabeth Strout writes movingly and so clearly about people that even though her novels are not really plot-based, they are a delight to read. This one is no exception. Lucy grew up in an impoverished household and she often reflects how that has formed who she is, she also thinks about the teacher who helped her and how she has never really felt at home anywhere, or even entirely visible. And her own idea of how she appears to others is challenged by William's comments about her over the course of their post-marriage relationship. Strout writes about ordinary lives better than anyone else.
If you have not read the earlier Lucy books, or at very least the first, My Name is Lucy Barton, I would say this is not the place to start. I think it might work as a stand-alone, but I expect you will get about 50% of the pleasure and power of this book without the backstory. With the backstory, it was just about perfect.
William is someone in which half the time I want to hug and protect and the other half I want to pinch and say âwatch your mouth!â Then there is Lucy. She has made mistakes in her life and she is learning to live with her decisions. Even though they have been divorced for quite a while and are now friends, these two still have lots of baggage.
No one does dysfunction like Elizabeth Strout. She takes the reader on a tour of therapy. She makes you, as a reader, examine your own life. Sometimes you are the victim and sometimes you are the aggressor. The first time I read a novel by this author, I was not a fan! However, I saved that novel and some of the underlined passages. And I have always come back for more! So, there is something about this author which makes such a huge impression. And this novel about William is one that opens your eyes to many issues between husbands, wives, children and mothers.
Need an emotional read you will not soon forgetâŚTHIS IS IT! Grab your copy today!
I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.
I had difficulty with the repetitive phrases and ideas. I can't recommend this latest book when compared to her others.
Lucy Barton first appeared in My Name is Lucy Barton, which was followed by Anything is Possible. Now, Lucy returns
Both Lucy and William have lost their spouse; Lucyâs husband has died and Williamâs wife has left him. William has learned that his mother had a child from her first marriage that he never knew about. He asks Lucy to accompany him on a trip to Maine to learn about his half-sister.
During their days together, Lucy remembers their love affair and marriage, and Williamâs lovely, if intrusive, mother Catherine.
âI came from terrible bleak poverty,â Lucy tells us, escaping after winning a college scholarship. She has been haunted by her early life, scarred by its depravations and lack of love, unable to truly feel safe in her marriage to William. Later, she found success as a writer and discovered the man who became her second husband.
The loneliness of marriage and family, how we never really understand or know each other, or even ourselves, is the theme of the novel. William learns his mother had surprising secrets that help explain her behavior.
âOnly many years later did I realize I had been sustained by a myth,â Lucy explains, as she comes to gripes with the mythologies of her life, the relationships that brought her a sense of security.
I related to Williamâs unexpected discovery researching his ancestors. In my research, I encountered something quite shocking and unbelievable about a beloved grandparent.
We keep so many secrets in this world. As Lucy concludes, âwe are all mythologies, mysterious, we are all mysteries, is what I mean.â
I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
I have read each of the novels in this Amgash series, although I have only vague memories now of the first two. This was beautifully written and very hard to review somehow. It concerned Lucy's on-going friendship with her first
Even though Lucy and William had been divorced for many years, their daughters having grown and
A family secret on Williamâs side is revealed, he and Lucy share a road trip of discovery and find that they had more in common than they realized. During the trip, Lucy reminisces about her past and their marriage, which gives the reader a better understanding of what this couple is going through.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for allowing me to read an advance copy. I loved the story and am happy to give my honest review.
Quotes: âPeople are lonely, is my point here. Many people canât say to those they know well what it is they feel they might want to say.â
âAfter I left [William], there was a time I called him and said: Should we really be going through this? And he said: Only if thereâs not something different you can bring to the marriage.â There was nothing I had.â
âEach morning â every morning David said this â âLucy B, Lucy B, how did we meet? I thank God we are we.â
âThere was something about her that seemed fundamentally comfortable inside herself, the way I think a person is when they have been loved by their parents.â
And in the acknowledgements: And to Laura Linney, who unwittingly and miraculously gave bloom to this entire book, thank you as well.
While this storyline is important, Lucyâs thoughts are the main focus of the novel. She reflects on her relationship with William, past and present, and with their adult daughters. She remembers her early days with David, and mourns his loss. And she considers her own lifeâs trajectory, from childhood poverty to successful writer, in a way that questions whether she really deserves all that has come to her.
Elizabeth Strout writes in Lucyâs voice, following her train of thought and dropping meaningful details into the narrative largely by recounting memories. Itâs difficult to describe the emotional impact of this quiet, contemplative sequel to My Name is Lucy Barton, but it tugged at my heart from start to finish.
I donât know how Strout does it but the force of her title âOh Williamâ resonates in your mind as you hear her whisper it, in your heart as you feel the the impact of the words through all the visceral memories described in exquisite prose.
Thank you NetGalley and Random House for a copy
We end up living her life with her, and notice the parallels between her and her ex-husbands mother, wow!
This is an in-depth look into family dynamics, and boy does Lucy end up going deep.
Even though long
Now this is the first book in this series that I have read, but will go back and pick up the others!
I received this book through Net Galley and Random House Publishing, and was not required to give a positive review.
Though it is not necessary to read Strouts previous books, this one could stand alone, I think it would
enrich the reading experience.
My Review: I, alone among US adults 49-64, did not like Olive Kitteridge. I was lukewarm about My Name is Lucy Barton, but I didn't find it intolerably tedious. I truly can't think what made me ask Random House for a DRC of this book, but
I'm really rather glad they did.
Lucy Barton is greatly more to my taste than Olive ever was. Amgash, her terrible isolated childhood, her absolutely clueless bumblings through parenthood, childhood's memories, learning to be Other with her mother, her *her*ness, rubbed me the right way as opposed to Olive's sandpaper-on-a-sore-tooth effect on me.
This story comes to me when I am Lucy's age, and I am also taking stock of my many pasts. William, father of Lucy's two daughters, wasn't the right husband for her nor was she the right wife for him. (Two more failed or failing marriages later, no one seems to be.) But they're friends. And as anyone who's ever been married or long-term-coupled will tell you, that's the thing that lasts. Their continued use of Button, her nickname from William, and Pillie, his nickname from her, is signaling this is a friendship for life. What her divorce stemmed from was, I suspect she is now coming to realize, a misunderstanding of what their true connection was.
But why, after decades apart, are we back in the position of hearing about William? Because the crisis in his life, learning an unwelcome truth about his own mother (whose relationship to Lucy was always cordial, if fraught on Lucy's side), and realizing that at seventy-one he is not going to Make It Right without trying (for once!), draws him right back to his heart-stealing first wife. She, whose second marriage was so very happy until he died on her, won't ever say No to Pillie. (Skip over the divorce bit.)
What transpires in this book was that rare and precious thing: Self discovery. Pillie and Button don't have all the time in the world, and they don't have a lot to lose as a result. Their relationship-long ability to connect in honesty (which is also why she left their marriage) is, at this late date, the most precious and unbelievably rare gift each has to give; the gift that each is now grateful to receive.
Lucy's old. She's had time to marinate in her failures. And she *still* obsesses about surfaces and appearances! Such a little thing, her snarky asides about what others are wearing and who can't make a decent speech; but so instantly relatable. Her life-long isolation and Otherness, relics of the childhood she survived, are never going to be gone, finished, dealt with. And that knowledge is how she can relate to William, how she can find her way to being his friend...he's got the issues she's got, just from other causes. Where Lucy was made to feel invisible, William was made to feel he could only be BIG. It comes to the same thing in the end: Are you going to leave a hole in the world when you leave it?
Grief is such aâoh, it is such a solitary thing; this is the terror of it, I think. It is like sliding down the outside of a really long glass building while nobody sees you.
I have always thought that if there was a big corkboard and on that board was a pin for every person who ever lived, there would be no pin for me.
I feel invisible, is what I mean. But I mean it in the deepest way. It is very hard to explain. And I cannot explain it except to sayâoh, I donât know what to say! Truly, it is as if I do not exist, I guess is the closest thing I can say. I mean I do not exist in the world. It could be as simple as the fact that we had no mirrors in our house when I was growing up except for a very small one high above the bathroom sink. I really do not know what I mean, except to say that on some very fundamental level, I feel invisible in the world.
These two people, these old friends, are groping towards the sense of life as it was lived being, when all is said and done, okay. Not great, not awful, okay. And the grief of that, the waste of "okay" to the world, is what they're learning to shrug off.
Eight decades on Earth and growing up never stops. If you're lucky. Pillie and Button are lucky. So are you and I, if we go with them.
Does my rating now seem mingy to you? I suspect it might. I'm not being unkind when I say there is a chemistry between writer and reader that I do not feel with Author Strout. Her phrase-making is often crazy-making for me. Her dithering women make me so so so so glad I'm gay. There are, of course, men who dither but thankfully I scare them off. I spent this whole book wanting to shout at Lucy, "GET TO THE POINT!!" when the point was that she doesn't. That made the read much more of a chore than a pleasure. But the story Lucy lived with her friend William, the story they're still living, was so very touching and moving and deeply agreeable to me that I powered through my desire to enact domestic violence upon her as she dithered and divagated and wittered *deep breath* Okay. Enough about that.
So there's the missing star-and-a-half. On the cutting-room floor, shall we say. But I want to be clear about this: Of the three books by Author Strout that I've read, this is head-and-shoulders above the rest and is the only one I will say, "read this, you will like it," about. It can be read as a stand-alone. It is better read after My Name is Lucy Barton, though. If you've already read Lucy Barton, you should trot right over to the bookery you prefer to patronize to get this before the COVID shortages make it impossible. Or, like me, get it on Kindle/e-reader.
But do get it.
This is a tenderly told story of Lucy Bartonâs relationship with her first husband William. Lucy Barton loved William; he made her feel safe. However, after two decades, she left him. William had been unfaithful. When he
When Estelle left William and Lucyâs second husband died, within a short time of each other, William was a great source of comfort to Lucy, and she was, as in turn, a comfort to him. This was not always his strong point, however, especially when they were married. Lucy had truly loved David, had in fact pursued him and initiated their relationship, and it was David who was her comfort, as William had once been her source of strength and security.
When William discovered secrets about his family, both Lucy and William embarked on a trip down memory lane to try and find out more about Williamâs past. His father had been a German POW during WWII and had worked for an American farmer. He had married his daughter. She was William's mother, but she had not been a very good one, although she professed deep love for him. When his father died, she was very sad and they fought all the time. She was not a hands-on mother and he felt rejected, which indeed, he was, by mother, wives and newly found sister. When William discovered, at the age of 70, that he had a sister, Lois, he never knew about, he wanted to find her. She had truly been abandoned by his mother, but she had known about William and resented him.
Lucy thought that William had symbolically married his mother, when he married her, because she felt she had some of the same dysfunctional, negative qualities of his motherâs personality. She wondered, did she, too, marry her mother, a mother with whom she had made peace, in the end? Both William and Lucy had had such troubled childhoods, perhaps that was what drew them together to begin with. Brought up without the attention or affection that most children crave and thrive with, they still managed to survive, but they carried the scars of their pasts with them into adulthood.
Lucy values her relationships, her marriages, her children and her life, even those from her past who influenced her. William truly valued only one person, a person who had shown him great but short-lived kindness, at school, when he was very young. Lucy and William remained loyal to each other and were kinder to each other in their old age than they were when they were younger. They seemed more tolerant and more compassionate, better able to accept the shortcomings of each other and of those with whom they interacted.
The novel tells the story of this deep relationship between Lucy and William and attempts to explain the different direction in which each of their lives traveled as they moved apart and then together again. It is touching and sweet, and so simply told, as Lucy describes how she deals with other people, even those who slighted her. She thought of others reactions and reacted to them accordingly. She will make you wonder if one every truly really knows or understands someone else completely, not only strangers you become involved with but even someone with whom you share a life or have deep affection for, like your own children, as well.
In the end, when William shaves his moustache, the reader may be reminded of the legend of Samson and Delilah, but in this instance, Delilah is a good influence, not a tragic one, she gives strength and does not rob it. Lucy no longer needs William for his strength, but William needs Lucy a bit for hers. They both grow more enlightened about the world and what they need to take from it. Their relationship was one of loyalty and continued devotion, long after they were separated. It made a better environment for all of them. They were all different, some needed to live sparingly, some with excess, but all treated each other with respect, in the end. It is simply a very nice story.
This book was too slow moving for me, I found myself skimming and then rereading. I found I couldnât relate to the characters and for me, not very likable. Found the relationships odd and unfulfilling. Although this book wasnât for me, I can see where fans of character driven books would love it.
Thanks to Ms. Strout, Random House and NetGalley for this ARC. Opinion is mine alone.