Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Random House, 2017.
Genre: Fiction / Short Stories
Rating: 5/5 — Yes, it is that good!
This book is as close to perfection as possible. The companion piece to Strout’s 2016 release, My Name is Lucy Barton, this book is strong enough to stand on its own. Anything is Possible is a series of nine interwoven stories that build upon one another, each one revealing a character from Lucy Barton’s hometown, Amgash, Illinois. Through each of their stories, Strout gives us a glimpse of their broken lives — people that have overcome childhood adversity; broken marriages; ravages of war; and unbearable losses. Human vulnerability at its best. And yet, in true Strout fashion, she also shares with us moments of grace and compassion, as the characters try to liberate themselves from pain and suffering:
The guidance counselor that shows compassion by giving Lucy’s obnoxious niece a second chance. A daughter, estranged from her mother, finds forgiveness in an Italian village. Lucy’s sister, bitter at her sibling’s success at escaping misery, finds empathy after realizing that Lucy did not come out unscathed. Tommy, the former dairy farmer, finds grace after his farm is lost to arson, leading to one of my favorite lines in the book:
“It was not in Tommy’s nature to regret things and on the night of the fire – in the midst of his galloping fear – he understood that all that mattered in the world were his wife and children and he thought that people lived their whole lives not knowing this as sharp and constantly as he did.”
A powerful sentence in its brevity — that not only gives us a glimpse of the character, but the broader meaning of life.
Strout shows us the layers of memory that create a lifetime of sadness and despair can be healed through the redeeming qualities of forgiveness, compassion and grace. Giving rise to the title, Anything is Possible.
Powerful in its message. Beautiful in its delivery. Strout captures the soul of small town America. This is one book you will definitely want to spend some time with, even if you haven’t read the first book in Stout’s Amgash series, My Name is Lucy Barton.
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