My rating of this book isn’t quite right, because I gave Strout’s Amy and Isabelle 3.5 stars rounded down, and that novel has much more meat on its bones than this one. But this one is good, short and spare as it is.
This is a very short novella, much shorter than its page count would have you believe; I read it in one sitting, something I almost never do. A writer named Lucy Barton reflects on her troubled childhood, and the bone-deep connection she still feels to the family that she (by choice) almost never sees, focusing on her mother’s surprise visit to her in the hospital when Lucy is a lonely young mother in New York. Lucy is a confused person and there’s a lot of information she doesn’t share; she’s not sure if her family counts as abusive, but she seems traumatized by something, and she has a lot of emotional need that goes mostly unmet – she seems to fall in love (platonically) with anyone who’s kind to her. It is poignant and sad. And this is a very well-written novel, written in a voice that conveys Lucy’s intelligence and vulnerability well.
I do recommend this, provided you take it for a monologue rather than expecting a plot-driven novel. One of these days I’ll get around to reading Strout’s major works.