Lucy By The Sea

by Elizabeth Strout

Book list Lucy Barton, star of several of Strout's previous novels, including Oh William! (2021), has weathered many crises in her life: an impoverished childhood, a turbulent relationship with her mother, infidelities, divorce, and, most recently, the death of her second husband. Now there’s a new virus decimating her beloved Manhattan, but when her ex-husband, William, implores her to decamp with him to Maine, Lucy’s not entirely sure why they must leave. Mired in a widow’s fog, Lucy hasn’t been keeping up with events, but William is a scientist and believes all the dire warnings. An old friend has found them a rental home on a secluded stretch of coastline, where Lucy and William take long walks, watch the crisis unfold nightly on TV, and fret about less-insulated family and friends. They delight in new relationships, most notably the rekindling of their own foundational love and support. All the angst of those early COVID-19 days crystallizes in Strout’s spare but consequential prose: the precariousness and paranoia, the disorientation and despair. Once again, Strout’s irrepressible heroine is as candid and self-aware as ever, her memories, regrets, and desires heightened by whatever improbable situation is at hand. In her certainty and delicacy, Strout has created the perfect pandemic novel, which is a strange sentiment, but true nonetheless.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: No way will Strout's ardent readers miss the latest installment in beloved Lucy Barton's gorgeously and sensitively rendered adventures.

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus Lucy Barton flees pandemic-stricken New York City for Maine with ex-husband William.This is the third time Lucy has chronicled the events and emotions that shape her life, and the voice that was so fresh and specific in My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016), already sounding rather tired in Oh, William! (2021), is positively worn out here. Fatigue and disorientation are natural responses to a cataclysmic upheaval like the coronavirus, but unfortunately, its Strouts imagination that seems exhausted in this meandering tale, which follows Lucy and William to Maine, relates their experiences there in haphazard fashion, and closes with their return to New York. Within this broad story arc, Lucys narration rambles from topic to topic: her newfound closeness with William; his unfaithfulness when they were married; their two daughters marital and health issues; her growing friendship with Bob Burgess; the surprise reappearance of Williams half sister, Lois; and memories of Lucys impoverished childhood, troubled relations with her parents, and ongoing difficulties with her sister, Vicky. To readers of Strouts previous books, its all unduly familiar, indeed stale, an impression reinforced when the author takes a searing emotional turning point from The Burgess Boys (2013) and a painful refusal of connection in Oh William! and recycles them as peripheral plot points. The novels early pages do nicely capture the sense of disbelief so many felt in the pandemics early days, but Lucys view from rural safety of the havoc wrought in New York feels superficial and possibly offensive. Strouts characteristic acuity about complex human relationships returns in a final scene between Lucy and her daughters, but from a writer of such abundant gifts and past accomplishments, this has to be rated a disappointment.Not the kind of deep, resonant fiction we expect from the Pulitzer Prizewinning author of Olive Kitteridge. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Kirkus Lucy Barton flees pandemic-stricken New York City for Maine with ex-husband William. This is the third time Lucy has chronicled the events and emotions that shape her life, and the voice that was so fresh and specific in My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016), already sounding rather tired in Oh, William! (2021), is positively worn out here. Fatigue and disorientation are natural responses to a cataclysmic upheaval like the coronavirus, but unfortunately, it’s Strout’s imagination that seems exhausted in this meandering tale, which follows Lucy and William to Maine, relates their experiences there in haphazard fashion, and closes with their return to New York. Within this broad story arc, Lucy’s narration rambles from topic to topic: her newfound closeness with William; his unfaithfulness when they were married; their two daughters’ marital and health issues; her growing friendship with Bob Burgess; the surprise reappearance of William’s half sister, Lois; and memories of Lucy’s impoverished childhood, troubled relations with her parents, and ongoing difficulties with her sister, Vicky. To readers of Strout’s previous books, it’s all unduly familiar, indeed stale, an impression reinforced when the author takes a searing emotional turning point from The Burgess Boys (2013) and a painful refusal of connection in Oh William! and recycles them as peripheral plot points. The novel’s early pages do nicely capture the sense of disbelief so many felt in the pandemic’s early days, but Lucy’s view from rural safety of the havoc wrought in New York feels superficial and possibly offensive. Strout’s characteristic acuity about complex human relationships returns in a final scene between Lucy and her daughters, but from a writer of such abundant gifts and past accomplishments, this has to be rated a disappointment. Not the kind of deep, resonant fiction we expect from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Strout follows up Oh William! with a captivating entry in the Lucy Barton series. This time, Lucy decamps to rural Maine during the first year of the Covid lockdown. At the pandemic’s onset in 2020, Lucy’s philandering ex-husband and longtime friend, William, whisks her away from New York City to a rental house in coastal Maine. He may have self-centered ulterior motives beyond his assertion that he’s trying to save her life, but they are not readily transparent for most of the narrative. Personal and public events intrude during the lockdown as the pair develop a “strange compatibility” while attempting to comprehend the new normal. Their two daughters each face a crisis in their marriage; William contacts his once unknown half sister, Lois Bubar, and reveals a life-threatening medical condition; and the country roils from George Floyd’s murder and the insurrection on January 6. Bleak memories of Lucy’s impoverished childhood and of her recently deceased husband surface in shattering flashbacks. Loneliness, grief, longing, and loss pervade intertwined family stories as Lucy and William attempt to create new friendships in an initially hostile town. What emerges is a prime testament to the characters’ resilience. With Lucy Barton, Strout continues to draw from a deep well. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Agency. (Sept.)

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