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Merle

Merle

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

Anything Is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

This is a lovely collection of interrelated short stories. It begins in Amgash, Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton, and when it ventures further afield, it’s to follow characters whose stories are suggested by the previous ones. The protagonists are mostly older people – grandparents or old enough to be – and a common theme is dealing with loss: of livelihood, of a spouse (to death or divorce), of parents or siblings who move away.

It is a melancholy book, and getting a little too caught up in the stories and reading them all in two sittings got to me a little. But it is also a book full of compassion and understanding for its characters (most, though not all, of the protagonists are compassionate and understanding people themselves), of human connection and love, of wisdom about what makes people tick. It is very well-written and got me quickly invested in the characters and their situations. In some cases I wanted to know a lot more; this was especially true of Patty’s story, though Abel’s sticks in my memory as well. Though I thought highly of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the story about the title character’s reappearance underwhelmed me and was probably my least favorite. But I am tempted to re-read that book now that I’ve read this one.

In sum, this is an excellent collection, rather quiet and sad, featuring complex and believable characters. I recommend it.