BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘Lucy By The Sea’ by Elizabeth Strout

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, host of the long-running Book Stew, a video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, authors, playwrights, and even a cat who survived a tornado and wrote a book about it.

Lucy By The Sea by Elizabeth Strout

Will the continuing saga of Lucy Barton end as a trilogy, or can there be more? Will Strout’s writing powers just keep getting better and better? Will this be the ultimate COVID novel?

Lucy and her former husband William are both single (widowed and divorced, William twice since his marriage tl Lucy) when he recognizes very early of the danger of the pandemic and drags Lucy off from NYC to coastal Maine to ride it out.

They hole up in an old mansion overlooking the water and become accustomed to living with each other (again) and to being completely isolated from their other family members.

In the now, William’s response seems extreme, but the novel successfully recreates the devastating fear and uncertainty of the flood of deaths in NYC and the paralyzing threat to older, immunocompromised people before a vaccine becomes available.

Lucy’s and William’s feelings for each other ebb and flow, between anger and dependency as William reconnects with a half-sister he’s never met and Lucy thrives on a strong platonic friendship with neighbor Bob Burgess (the main character in an earlier Stout novel).

Lucy’s voice is as strong as ever and her narration is touching and sometimes bogged down in the trivial, and aren’t we all? I devourced this book in two readings and, as I did with her middle novel “Oh William!” I only wish that I could read it again for the first time, many times over.

Quotes:

“I did not know where to put in my mind.”

“It was as though each day was like a huge stretch of ice I had to walk over.”

“This is the question that has made me a writer; always that deep desire to know what it feels like to be a different person.”

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