My Name is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout

“There is that constant judgment in this world: How are we going to make sure we do not feel inferior to another?”

Lucy Barton is stuck in the hospital with complications from an operation for weeks on end, leaving her two young children in the care of her busy husband. There is also a lady who helps watch them, but she has no children of her own (as Lucy tells us several times in the book). Lucy is estranged from her family, but her mother shows up in her hospital room for a few days at her husband’s request. Their conversations and Lucy’s inner dialogue show how tenuous a mother-daughter relationship can be and how the past will haunt the present if you let it.

I saw this book being advertised in BookPages, but didn’t add it to my list until a family member had read it. I had not really read too much about what the book was about, but my impression was that it was going to be a historical fiction book. It was not. It is a fiction book written like a memoir.

Lucy Barton grew up dirt poor in a family with a war-stricken father, tough mother and a brother and sister. The children tried to help each other, but their life was tough and they each had to stand on their own two feet. Lucy threw herself into school and managed to get a college scholarship that pulled her out of her world into a new one. She knew none of the popular culture references, but she studied hard and dreamed of being a writer. She falls out of touch with her family after getting married to a man of German descent except for rare phone calls until her mother shows up at the hospital. Lucy is desperate to know more about her other and hear her say, “I love you,” but her mother leaves after just a few days of companionship and light gossip conversation.

I enjoyed reading the book and really liked the unique voice of Lucy Barton. However, the end left me unsatisfied, as there are several details of Lucy’s life left out of this memoir. Her childhood seems filled with distress and abuse, but not many specifics are mentioned. I had hoped when I finished that it was an actual memoir and I could find out more information about this person, but it’s fiction and I will not know any more about Lucy than what is offered in this book.

I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you are doing a literature study. There aren’t many fiction books written in a memoir style and the author does create a unique character and voice in Lucy Barton. The book does try to push through and end with a bit of optimism because despite all that happens, Lucy writes, “All life amazes me.”

Buy the book here (affiliate link).

About Sarah Anne Carter

Sarah Anne Carter is a writer and reader. She grew up all over the world as a military brat and is now putting down roots with her family in Ohio. Family life keeps her busy, but any spare moment is spent reading, writing or thinking about plots for novels.