With this book, I complete my visit to Amgash, Illinois, the small midwestern town that serves as the setting for the three-novel series by Elizabeth Strout: (1) MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON, (2) ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, and (3) OH, WILLIAM! I gave this one four stars on Goodreads.
I did NOT read the books in 1-2-3 order, but I don’t think it really mattered.
#3 centers on Lucy’s relationship with her husband, William and the family secret he uncovers.
#1 is Lucy Barton’s back story, focused on her disadvantaged childhood, escape from Amgash, marriage, and relationship with her mother.
#2 (this one) is different. It’s not so much about Lucy, though she does make a few appearances.
Instead, like Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning book OLIVE KITTERIDGE, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE is a collection of short stories, about individuals who are connected (some closely, some distantly) to one person. In this case, Lucy Barton. Peers who tormented her as a child — now grown up. Siblings Lucy left behind in Amgash. A few distant relatives and acquaintances.
Like all of Strout’s writing, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE skillfully and lovingly examines people’s deepest vulnerabilities. What’s behind the hostility Lucy’s sister displays? What is the ex-soldier with PTSD really thinking? Why did the school janitor let Lucy stay late everyday after school? Is there more contentment among those who achieved financial success? Ultimately, Strout reveals how infrequently any of us show our true selves to one another.
Underlying all these stories is Strout’s exploration of the notion of loneliness. Whether single or married, old or young, living alone or with others, prospering or not — everyone experiences aloneness. And in many different manifestations.
The portraits of these people are thoughtful, nuanced, and emotional. And they teach so much about the human condition. If that sounds interesting to you, you won’t want to miss this book.
More about the author, Elizabeth Strout.
You may be interested in my reviews of other books by Strout: