This wonderful collection of loosely connected stories shines a spotlight on a small, rural, and mostly poor county in upstate Illinois. Lives are led below the attention of anyone other than those who live there, and then the scrutiny and judgement is intense. What else to focus on besides your neighbors, who have lived in close proximity for generations?
The connection among the stories is Lucy Barton, who has made it out of this poor town and into a degree of fame as a writer. Exploring the town, its inhabitants, and the small successes, failures, secrets, and aspirations (both achieved and not), the stories are presented as each character reflects on his or her relationship to Lucy. Beginning with a retired janitor who tries to elevate Lucy’s self-esteem as a young and very poor girl who is the butt of others’ jokes, to a final story in which Lucy returns to visit her brother who lives alone, nearly a hermit; we see the universal elements of the human condition.
Book clubs who relish beautifully rendered stories of families and small towns will love this book.
Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. Random House; ISBN 978-0-81298-940-3; $27.
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