The one word that came to mind when I read this short novel was: exquisite. 

lucy-bartonLucy lies in her hospital bed, desperately missing her two young daughters.

She wakes to find her long-estranged mother sitting by her bed, and there she remains for the next five days.

She asks her mother to talk to her, and she obliges with tales about people Lucy once knew and the state of their marriages and lives.

Lucy’s childhood – abjectly poor, often frightening – is not discussed, nor is the rest of the family, who all show sigs of severe trauma in various ways.

Looking back on this time as an older woman, Lucy never dwells on her deprived childhood, or the terrors she faced.

The story she is telling is of her as a writer, and the things that shaped the voice she discovered in herself.

If this sounds dour, it’s not.

Strout, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge, writes without a shred of sentimentality, and never gets bogged down in misery or bleakness.

Lucy lies in bed making sense of things, rediscovering and acknowledging her love for her mother with a wry and sharp-eyed humour.

This is only a short book, not much more than a novella, but it seems exactly the length it needs to be. It is a beautiful book, and I loved every word.

This book was published in March 2016. My review appeared in the Herald Sun Weekend magazine.