Anything Is Possible

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Elizabeth Strout

Random House

April 25, 2017

254 Pages

Written in a style very similar to Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning┬ánovel, Olive Kitteridge, (one of my favorite books of all time), Anything Is Possible is a collection of interrelated short stories that also┬áconnect to┬áthe main character in┬áher last book, My Name Is Lucy Barton. The stories feature┬ápeople from the same small, poor town where┬áLucy grew up, and┬ámost┬áof the characters interact with Lucy, on some level, at least once in┬áeach chapter. So the book is mainly about these other┬ácharacters, but also still very much about Lucy.

I absolutely loved My Name Is Lucy Barton. Now┬áI know many people criticized Strout for writing a book that didn’t give a whole lot of answers about its┬ámain character. Lucy┬ástays┬áa mystery throughout—the details of her life, and especially┬áof the abuse she suffered, are┬ávague. But I loved the nebulousness┬áof that book. I appreciated┬áhow all Lucy’s┬áfeelz┬áweren’t┬áspelled out for the┬áreader. We were told┬áher┬ástory from her┬áperspective, and we weren’t going to be able to understand what Lucy herself couldn’t understand—which makes sense. As Trevor Noah says in Born a Crime, “Growing up in a home of abuse, you struggle with the notion that you can love a person you hate, or hate a person you love. It’s a strange feeling. You want to live in a world where someone is good or bad, where you either hate them or love them, but that’s not how people are.” Abuse┬áis confusing. It’s hard to know exactly how to feel, and My Name Is Lucy Barton communicated┬áthat dilemma perfectly.

Since I had already made peace with what I knew (and didn’t know) about Lucy, and felt no need to know more, Anything Is Possible kind of irritated me. Strout takes a more black and white approach in this book:  the past is spelled out, the reality and consequences of abuse are very visible and clearcut, and I knew exactly how I was supposed to feel about all of it. It was all very, I don’t know…obvious. And that disappointed me somewhat. I was halfway through the book before I finally just accepted the premise and gave myself permission to appreciate the story for what it was.

So, ultimately, I have mixed feelings about Anything Is Possible. There is no denying that Strout knows how to tell a good story, and there are some truly beautiful moments in this book. Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t exactly the story I wanted.

Advanced Reader Copy provided through Amazon Vine.

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