Elizabeth Strout * Random House * April 25, 2017 * 272 Pages
Written in a style very similar to Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Olive Kitteridge, (one of my favorite books of all time), Anything Is Possible is a collection of interrelated short stories that also connect to the main character in her last book, My Name Is Lucy Barton. The stories feature people from the same small, poor town where Lucy grew up, and most of the characters interact with Lucy, on some level, at least once in each chapter. So the book is mainly about these other characters, but also still very much about Lucy.
I absolutely loved My Name Is Lucy Barton. (See my full review here.) Now I know many people criticized Strout for writing a book that didn’t give a whole lot of answers about its main character. Lucy stays a mystery throughout–the details of her life, and especially of the abuse she suffered, are vague. But I loved the nebulousness of that book. I appreciated how all Lucy’s feelz weren’t spelled out for the reader. We were told her story from her perspective, 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 is confusing. It’s hard to know exactly how to feel, and My Name Is Lucy Barton communicated that 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.