SECOND OPINION: Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

Review published on January 26, 2018.

Elizabeth Strout’s book My Name is Lucy Barton was long listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2016. Although aware of the book I haven’t read it. But I was intrigued as I began Ms. Strout’s latest novel to meet Lucy Barton!! For she appears as a character in Anything is Possible, proving beyond a doubt that anything is indeed possible!

This book is deceptive. On one hand it is an elegant collection of beautifully crafted short stories populated with some quirky, damaged people. Strout’s prose is descriptively detailed and her characterisations are perceptive and empathetic. But as you delve deeper into these stories you realise they are all interconnected, with characters from one story popping up, sometimes just by name, in another. It is fascinating and makes for compelling reading as you strive to make the connections clear in your head. But you don’t have to. Each story works perfectly well as a standalone tale.

And as desperate and lonely as many of these characters are, the novel seems to see something almost beautiful in their states. It is a quite perplexing paradox that can totally engage the reader. Small town America, yes, but a collection of people who could be from any small town in the world, types we may all have come across to some degree in our lives. And this book makes you look at people differently, hopefully with a wider understanding.

I was briefly reminded of Carson McCullers for I felt Ms. Strout has a similar ability to delve into the very heart of a person and understand their raison d’être. Whatever quirks, hurts, faults, shortcomings or flaws a character may have it is somehow rendered acceptable and comprehensible by this writer.

I had few expectations of this book other than that undefinable, call it hunch or readers instinct maybe that this was a book or substance. It is. I mentioned earlier that I hadn’t read My Name is Lucy Barton but by heck I’m going to.

Gill Chedgey 4/5

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Viking 9780241287972 hbk May 2017

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