Book Report: Lucy by the Sea

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What? A book report? I know, I haven’t been writing many of these lately (for all two of you who read them). But, between all the crafting and horsing, there hasn’t been much reading other than the huge number of magazines (mostly about horses and houses) that I devour every month or week. For some reason, I subscribed to People when it replaced a magazine I liked that went out of print and finding out what is happening to the same small group of “famous” people each week takes a LOT of my time. People seems compelled to tell me who this Pete Davidson person is dating every week, which, I must admit, is a new person most weeks. Why anyone should be so interested in a not-that-funny comedian is beyond me, but hey, at least he isn’t tweeting swastikas.

This woman can WRITE

And now let’s talk about the book I did read, which is Lucy by the Sea, by my current favorite author, Elizabeth Strout. You may recall that I have read a lot of other books by her, since the old book club read one of her novels a year or two ago, before I became an outcast (which may explain why I haven’t been reading many novels–there’s no one to encourage me, and novels remind me of being rejected so resoundingly by “friends” from my old neighborhood).

I need to be more like Lucy Barton, the protagonist in this book, who was raised outside of society, so misses social cues a lot. In some ways, that can be a relief. Anyway, this book covers recent years in the life of Lucy, during the pandemic and the previous US President’s time in office. Her ex-husband takes her to Maine to escape New York City just before the really bad COVID outbreak hit there.

Strout shares Lucy’s impressions of the ensuing events in her gloriously spare style, where you sometimes have to sit there and think about a sentence for a few minutes, because there’s so much implied but not stated. And because of Lucy’s unconventional upbringing, she is able to see some of the events of the past few years differently than folks like me would see them, which led me to think hard about some of my prejudices against people of different backgrounds from mine. This pleased me. I think many of my friends ought to read this book just for the chance to get a glimpse into how another person thinks.

Lucy is not someone who’d probably be my friend in real life, but she’s someone who can teach me a lot, and that’s better, I think. The way she sees the world clarifies my own world view (I’m not being too specific so you can read the book yourself and have your own “aha” moments.) But, here’s something I enjoyed, when Lucy is talking about God to a friend:

It’s our duty to bear the burden of the mystery with as much grace as we can.

p. 150

That sums up God for me.

One more thing Lucy thought of that rang true was when she talked about people you meet being like ping pong balls bouncing into each other, and how inevitably, you will bounce back a little. But you never know who the ball will next bounce into, even briefly, and have an effect. (She says it better than that.) (pp. 186-7)

If you are my friend or are experiencing life these days as confusing, I think you should get this one and read it slowly, savoring it, as a lot of people I know have been doing. It will stick with you! (And PS, Olive Kittredge, from the first book, shows up in the periphery, so this book nicely ties in the whole Olive and Lucy series.)

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

7 thoughts on “Book Report: Lucy by the Sea”

      1. I’m about half way through the book. It is definitely thought provoking. It is one of those books that I will re-read immediately after I finish it to pick up on nuances I missed the first time through.

        Liked by 1 person

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