When the pandemic hits New York, her ex-husband William convinces Lucy Barton to leave the city and to come to live with him in a house in a small town in Maine, by the sea. Lucy trusts Williams, in these fields he knows much better what to do and thus, she leaves her apartment behind, while their two daughters also flee the metropolis. Lucy experiences the first weeks and months like many of us did: life has come to a standstill, everybody is afraid of the fatal virus and interaction with human beings is reduced to the absolute minimum. However, this new situation also offers room for reflection and questioning decisions made, things said and done and all that ultimately matters in life.
I was not really sure if I was already willing to read a novel in which the pandemic was a central aspect while the virus is still raging. However, I totally adore Elizabeth Strout’s novels and since I have met Lucy Barton before, I was looking forwards to “Lucy by the Sea”. As anticipated, I found the novel a wonderful read, slow in pace, which was simply perfect for the time portrayed and the topic, and deeply reflective which I personally perceived just like an invitation for myself, to take some time and seize the chance of the standstill to look back and ponder on where I have come from and where I want to go to.
Apart from the new rules in life – keeping a distance, wearing a mask, obeying lockdown – Elizabeth Strout again focuses on the fragile and complex family bonds that her characters are born in and cannot escape. William finds a part of his family and gets closer when everybody is getting more distant; their daughters Chrissy and Becka have grown up and find a renewed sisterly bond. Lucy has to accept that the girls have become independent and do not need their mother that much anymore. But also the couples’ relationships are put to a test. William and Lucy have been friendly for some time after their divorce, but can living under the same roof work? Lucy comes to understand that love can take different forms and is expressed in diverse ways and loving also means that losing is hard.
Without a doubt one of this year’s absolute highlights. The protagonist feels like a dear and close friend and towards the end, I did not want the novel to stop, but just to go on forever. Elizabeth Strout, again, has not only captured the mood of the pandemic and chronicled our lives but also demonstrates her deep insight in our human condition and what makes us real humans.
Thanks for the free book PRH International.