Book Beginnings quote:
Like many others, I did not see it coming.
Years ago in New York City I had taught at a community college and there was a man who taught there as well, he was much older than I was, and he retired soon after I got there. He was a nice man, with thick eyebrows, and he was quiet, though he seemed to like me and we would sometimes talk in the hallways. He told me that his wife had Alzheimer’s, and that he could not remember the last word she had spoken to him, because she’d become gradually more and more silent and then she remained silent. And this man, her husband, could never remember the last thing she had said. — And thinking of this now made me think of something I had often thought before: that there had been a last time—when they were little—that I had picked up the girls. This had often broken my heart, to realize that you never know the last time you pick up a child. Maybe you say “Oh, honey, you’re getting too big to be picked up” or something like that. But then you never pick them up again. — And living with this pandemic was like that. You did not know.
As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it's just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea.
Rich with empathy and emotion, Lucy by the Sea vividly captures the fear and struggles that come with isolation, as well as the hope, peace, and possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire. At the heart of this story are the deep human connections that unite us even when we're apart--the pain of a beloved daughter's suffering, the emptiness that comes from the death of a loved one, the promise of a new friendship, and the comfort of an old, enduring love. (Publisher)
Review: Back in March of 2020 when we all went into lockdown in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID, my husband and I found ourselves together and alone. We actually found that being together in this way wasn't so bad (we were lucky!) and we created a little safe bubble for ourselves based on a schedule of time alone and time together for walks, meals, games, TV-viewing, Zoom worship, etc. As the months drug on we found ourselves only wanting to watch TV shows which were either from the distant past or from the current now. Comedy became our most craved viewing choice but we wanted comedy which addressed our current state of quarantine. If a comedian talked about getting together with others and doing stupid stuff, we found it less appealing. How can you joke about getting together when everyone is stuck alone?
I tell you this little back story as a set up for my review of Lucy by the Sea because I could relate to Lucy and her ex-husband's experiences going into quarantine together after escaping Manhattan in the nick of time. Their experience was similar to our experience: fear of not knowing how the virus spread, isolating even when someone outside your bubble is in need of companionship, anger toward others who weren't taking the CDCs recommendations seriously for social distancing, masking, only meeting other people outside even in cold weather, and eventually getting the vaccine. Reading Lucy By the Sea was refreshing because it spoke to our shared experiences.
I read the first book of the Amgash series, I Am Lucy Barton, several years ago. Then when my book club selected Lucy by the Sea I had to tussle with myself wondering if I needed to read books #2 and #3 before reading this, the 4th in the series. I decided to just jump in and I found the book fine as a standalone. Strout is an excellent writer and she likes to pull in characters from her past books. Olive Kitteridge, the character in her award-winning book by the same name, even made a cameo in this book. We learned some back story on William, her ex, and her daughters, which I am sure was covered in earlier books, but I didn't feel lost or needy not knowing the whole story. If you haven't found your way to any of Elizabeth Strout's works, I highly recommend her as a writer. Her books also make excellent book club selections because one can discuss her writing as well as plot, characters, etc.
I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars.