Judith D Collins
Anything Is Possible
By: Elizabeth Strout
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 4/25/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars + Top Books of 2017 From #1 New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout comes a brilliant latticework of fiction that recalls Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity. Written in tandem with My Name Is Lucy Barton and drawing on the small-town characters evoked there, these pages reverberate with the themes of love, loss, and hope that have drawn millions of readers to Strout’s work.
“As I was writing My Name Is Lucy Barton,” Strout says, “it came to me that all the characters Lucy and her mother talked about had their own stories—of course!—and so the unfolding of their lives became tremendously important to me.” Here, among others, are the “Pretty Nicely Girls,” now adults: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband, the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. Tommy, the janitor at the local high school, has his faith tested in an encounter with an emotionally isolated man he has come to help; a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD discovers unexpected solace in the company of a lonely innkeeper; and Lucy Barton’s sister, Vicky, struggling with feelings of abandonment and jealousy, nonetheless comes to Lucy’s aid, ratifying the deepest bonds of family.
With the stylistic brilliance and subtle power that distinguish the work of this great writer, Elizabeth Strout has created another transcendent work of fiction, with characters who will live in readers’ imaginations long after the final page is turned.
From the author of My Name is Lucy Barton and the smashing hit Olive Kitteridge the HBO mini-series starring Frances McDormand (I loved) — Elizabeth Strout once again "wows" readers and her avid fans, with her insights into the human psyche — when ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
Extraordinary novels, deftly combining lyrical prose with the heartrending subject matter. A desperate need to be understood and accepted.
Compelling! Nine powerful and emotional stories. Grace and forgiveness.
Flawed people who have experienced tragedy and haunting childhoods, abuse, mental illness, injustice, poverty, bullying, regrets, torment, war trauma, imploding lives, marriage problems, and severe loss.
People who hide behind social status. A sense of entitlement. Those who have survived and yet still remain with their own scars. There have been deep fissures in each of these families. The cracks. Some have been pushed to the breaking point, with shattering, unforeseeable consequences.
If you read My Name Is Lucy Barton (highly recommend), you may be rushing back to the title to refresh yourself, as I found myself doing.
Lucy came from a poor and dysfunctional family. She was determined and managed to escape the small town of Amgash, IL. She was diligent and became a successful author. She ultimately forgave her parents.
However, the scars of her past and the people who shaped her life, and the way she was treated by her family, siblings, and people of this town have haunted her.
Strout takes us back to some of the characters, cousins, family members, neighbors, school classmates, and siblings. We learn of the heartaches and fears, the narrow-minded thinking of these people. Where are these people today? Discovering how harsh words and actions stay with people. A profound message.
Even when someone succeeds, there are those who try and tear down the things we are most proud of. Each story sends a powerful message. Who do they blame? Are they accountable for their actions?
Broken people. Such hope for us all if only can learn to communicate. Not only with our families but the people whom we come in contact with on a daily basis. Intuitive. Being able to help those who need someone to care.
We can see from the outside a dysfunctional family can fall prey to those in a small town who do not really understand what's going on with the family as a whole, or those that make up the family (s).
We each have our own favorite stories in the collection. I enjoyed the story of Tommy, Pete, Patty, and Lucy’s return to town which did not go as expected when Vicky (sister) brings up the horrors of the past and Lucy has a panic attack driving her away. I also enjoyed the people from her past which showed up at her book signing.
Family dysfunction, problems, and crossing social classes; people are mean and they are ugly. A cruel world and Strout does not hold back. A reminder to us all. One act of compassion, caring, or kindness can make all the difference in the word.
The characters in the nine stories are shaped and at the same time, haunted by their past. They still feel trapped by the difficulties in their present day relationships and their inability to say how they truly feel. The author is a master at drawing you into the lives of her characters as she weaves in her powerful observations of human complexities and interactions. From anger, frustration, and bullying mixed with fear and cruelty.
I love this stand-out author! Her writing just keeps getting better and betters. Beautifully written, with each book I read, it makes me return to re-read or perhaps one I missed. Strout is authentic, prolific, and has mastered her skilled craft at getting inside her character’s heads, heart, and soul. They come alive on the page.
If you come from a small town and you happen to be the one who left and got away (I am) and became successful— you will resonate with these stories.
Often those left behind are often bitter and resentful, and lash out in hateful ways and try to destroy another’s happiness when they do not have the facts. Their views are narrow and they do not think big and wide outside the box. They could have made the choice to leave. Everyone has choices. How hard do we want to strive for a better life is the question.
If you have not watched Olive Kitteridge I highly recommend. I want to watch it over and over. It stays with you. I am hoping we will get to see Anything is Possible and My Name is Lucy Barton, will be played out on the big screen. These are powerful stories that people can connect with on many levels.
There is always hope, forgiveness, and love amidst the imperfections. We are reminded that in life Anything is Possible!
For me the Washington Post article by Susan Scarf Merrell offers the perfect summary of ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE:
. . . “These stories return Strout to the core of what she does more magnanimously than anyone else, which is to render quiet portraits of the indignities and disappointments of normal life, and the moments of grace and kindness we are gifted in response.
Such a simple goal, so difficult to achieve. Each of these stories stands alone, but they are richer in juxtaposition to the others. And that’s because over the years, from angle after angle, Strout has been packing and unpacking how silence works — between people, within a single person, on the page, in the spaces between stories.
Omission is where you find what makes a writer a writer; it is in the silences where forgiveness and wisdom grow, and it is where Strout’s art flourishes. This new book pushes that endeavor even further.” . . . Read More
Well said. I just purchased Amy and Isabelle and Abide with Me audiobooks, I missed along the way. Highly recommend this author.
"Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack, a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in." —Leonard Cohen
This book reminds me of a plaque I have on my desk:
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." I am reminded of this each time I return to my hometown and family.
Fans of Fredrik Backman will enjoy the exploration of small town characters and the examination of the fragile human spirit.
“In Elizabeth Strout’s Anything Is Possible, her stunning follow-up to My Name Is Lucy Barton, a famous author returns to the Midwestern hometown of her childhood, touching off a daisy-chain of stories narrated by those who knew her—memories of trauma and goodwill, resentments small and large, and the ever-widening gulf between haves and have-nots. Strout, always good, just keeps getting better.”—Vogue “If you miss the charmingly eccentric and completely relatable characters from Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout’s best-selling My Name Is Lucy Barton, you’ll be happily reunited with them in Strout’s smart and soulful Anything Is Possible.”—Elle “Strout pierces the inner worlds of these characters’ most private behaviors, illuminating the emotional conflicts and pure joy of being human, of finding oneself in the search for the American dream.”—NYLON “We devoured Strout’s last novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton, and her latest—which is loosely linked to Lucy Barton—is no different. Told from multiple points of view, it’s about residents of a small town in Illinois struggling with the most relatable and quotidian problems . . . you’ll swear you know these characters. (In fact, it reminds us a bit of another of Strout’s masterpieces, the excellent Olive Kitteridge.)”—PureWow “Amgash, Illinois, will be familiar to Elizabeth Strout fans as the hometown of the protagonist of her 2016 novel, My Name is Lucy Barton. In Anything is Possible . . . Lucy’s legend looms large . . . but no prior reading is required to enjoy Strout’s powerful writing and empathy.”—Real Simple “In her latest work, Strout achieves new levels of masterful storytelling.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review) “The epic scope within seemingly modest confines recalls Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge, and her ability to discern vulnerabilities buried beneath bad behavior is as acute as ever. Another powerful examination of painfully human ambiguities and ambivalences—this gifted writer just keeps getting better.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “It’s hard to believe that a year after the astonishing My Name Is Lucy Barton Elizabeth Strout could bring us another book that is by every measure its equal, but what Strout proves to us again and again is that where she’s concerned, anything is possible. This book, this writer, are magnificent.”—Ann Patchett
About the Author
Elizabeth Strout was born in Portland, Maine, and grew up in small towns in Maine and New Hampshire. From a young age she was drawn to writing things down, keeping notebooks that recorded the quotidian details of her days. She was also drawn to books, and spent hours of her youth in the local library lingering among the stacks of fiction. During the summer months of her childhood she played outdoors, either with her brother, or, more often, alone, and this is where she developed her deep and abiding love of the physical world: the seaweed covered rocks along the coast of Maine, and the woods of New Hampshire with its hidden wildflowers.
During her adolescent years, Strout continued writing avidly, having conceived of herself as a writer from early on. She read biographies of writers, and was already studying – on her own – the way American writers, in particular, told their stories. Poetry was something she read and memorized; by the age of sixteen was sending out stories to magazines. Her first story was published when she was twenty-six. Strout attended Bates College, graduating with a degree in English in 1977. Two years later, she went to Syracuse University College of Law, where she received a law degree along with a Certificate in Gerontology. She worked briefly for Legal Services, before moving to New York City, where she became an adjunct in the English Department of Borough of Manhattan Community College. By this time she was publishing more stories in literary magazines and Redbook and Seventeen. Juggling the needs that came with raising a family and her teaching schedule, she found a few hours each day to work on her writing. Read More
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • THE EMMY AWARD–WINNING HBO MINISERIES STARRING FRANCES MCDORMAND, RICHARD JENKINS, AND BILL MURRAY
In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge.