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Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

A bold statement is the title of this book. Do you think anything is possible? What does the title have to do with this book? Let’s dig in!

I almost, almost did not read this book. I saw that it was called a collection of short stories and that is not a genre I enjoy, but I started it anyway.

And I am glad I did!

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It is a collection of short stories, but they are all woven together and centered around one particular person, Lucy Barton. Lucy herself only appears in one of the chapters, although she is mentioned in the others.

It is the story of people from Amgash, Illinois. The book opens with the story of Tommy Guptill and you learn that he tragically lost his farm to a fire. He eventually took a job as a janitor in the local school. Later he has quite a life revelation as he talks with Lucy’s brother, Pete. Pete will show up again in a later chapter. There are also details added to each story that let you know Lucy and her siblings were abused and often hungry.

From the story of Tommy, he reveals:

Standing in the sunshine (at Pete’s house) he thought again of Lucy Barton, how she had been a skinny child, painfully so, and her hair long and blond, and always never did she look him in the eye. Once, when she was still so young, he had walked into a classroom after school and found her sitting there reading, and she had jumped- he saw her really jump with fear- when the door opened. It was that day, seeing the way she jumped, seeing the terror that crossed her face, when he guessed she must have been beaten at home.

The chapters weave all the characters together- Patty, Charlie, Annie, Dottie, and Abel ( and a few more). Their lives are our lives – filled with emotion and hard choices and making a living, enjoying our families, and surviving. There are sad circumstances (like abuse and hungry children getting food from dumpsters) and some odd things that happen (mostly details about sexual exploits).

If you have read Olive Kitteridge, you know this author’s style. She writes beautifully and in such simple language. You will find yourself rereading words just because they go together with such clarity- yet this author can also be brutal and shocking.

This book is a sequel to My Name is Lucy Barton. I read this book first and, of course, had to read the other. (My review for the sequel will be featured next week!) Lucy, it seems, escaped Amgash and most people in the town do not care for her. She has written books and not returned to Amgash in over 15 years. I had to know why!

This book is 4 stars for me. I did find some slow parts. And I was unhappy that it ended without resolving a few things- perhaps that means there will be another sequel. Anything is Possible!

Anything is Possible, a book review of a great read by Elizabeth Strout. This book is a sequel to "My Name is Lucy Barton".

My rating system: 5 stars means perfection- the book was written well, held my attention, and I did not want it to end. 4 stars- the book was really good, but I had questions or concerns about parts of it. This might include the way it ended. 3 stars- the book was okay, but I just didn’t like it much. 2 stars- I skimmed most of it. 1 star- I could not finish it.