I loved Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys. This one, I enjoyed. It goes in that category of “gently devastating.” Strout’s accomplishment here is Lucy Barton’s voice. It didn’t take long for me to ‘hear’ it. It takes longer for her to reclaim it. Strout fans will not be surprised to learn that this one is not overburdened by action. Instead, it focuses mostly on a conversation between Lucy (or “Wizzle,” as her mother calls her) and her mother, whose visit to Lucy’s hospital room is as unexpected as her abrupt departure from it. Prompted by these conversations, Lucy moves back and forth in time. This is not a spoiler. There is never any doubt that, despite a couple of close calls, that Lucy emerges from her somewhat cryptic illness to resume her life. And life here, as in her other books, is extremely difficult, in large part because after so many years with the same people (whether it’s a family or marriage or a community), every small word or action carries so much weight. In this way, when Lucy’s mother finds her way to where Lucy is to emerge from one of her emergency tests, we understand why it’s such a Herculean act of love from a mother not prone to saying, “I love you.”
Don’t make this the first Strout. But if you like the other two I mentioned (and, boy, does Burgess Boys seem prescient now), then you’ll glide into this one.