My Name is Lucy Barton

Elizabeth Strout

Fiction 2016 | 209 pages


In the mid-1980s, Lucy Barton arrives at a New York City hospital with a ruptured appendix, develops a mysterious illness, and is in the hospital for nine weeks.  This is before cell phones and in the midst of the aids epidemic.

One day, Lucy awakens to find her mother sitting in the chair by her bed. It has been years since Lucy has seen her; she has never before come to New York. Lucy’s mother stays right at the foot of her bed for many days, speaking mostly about the marriages among their friends and family that have fallen apart.  During her visit, Lucy comes to terms with the harsh poverty that isolated her family and the abuse she and her siblings faced because of their father’s untreated post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lucy details how her father would lock her in his truck for entire days while her parents worked. The sound of children crying (and snakes) trigger Lucy’s traumatic memories. Lucy also remembers how she would escape the brutal cold of her family’s one-room garage home by staying longer at school and reading. Eventually, this experience shapes her into the writer she longs to be.

Though lauded by some (using words such as powerful, meditative, and haunting), Goodreads reviewers only rate it as 3.57 and I must join the less enthusiastic readers.  I found the tale interesting, but not captivating. I felt as though I was watching Lucy and her (unnamed) mother, and not really entering into who they are as people.  Shallow, I would say.  Lucy’s mother cannot say the words “I love you” to anyone; however Lucy declares her love for everyone, from her doctor to her friends, and to about every man she has encountered in her life.  It is endless and seemingly insincere.

This is, by the way, a very short read!  While it lists at 209 pages, I have the large print edition, and it is only 175 pages.  For those of you who are local, if you play it as you leave from the West Hills of Portland (as I did today), you will finish it just as you turn into your driveway in Bend!

As an Elizabeth Strout fan, who you might want to read this novel, but I don’t come up with any other compelling reason to read it.

(Okay, we need a four-heart book next, eh??)

February 2023

2 responses on “My Name is Lucy Barton

  1. Mary Cary Crawford

    I also was not thrilled with this book. Loved Strout’s Oliver Kitteridge books but this one not so much. My reading journal notes indicate I liked the writing style – it felt like I was reading Lucy’s diary. But that’s all I wrote which tells me that this book didn’t impress me.

    1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

      I must admit, I love how often we agree, Mary! I can always trust your recommendations ….