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Likely Stories -- Lucy by the Sea, by Elizabeth Stroud

Elizabeth Strout is one of the finest living writers to this day

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Elizabeth Strout is a storyteller par excellence bar none. Lucy by the Sea is her ninth novel. According to NPR, “Being privy to the innermost thoughts of Lucy Barton—and, more to the point, deep inside a book by Strout—makes readers feel safe. We know we’re in good hands.”

The story begins with, “Like many others, I did not see it coming. // But William is a scientist, and he saw it coming, he saw it sooner than I did, is what I mean. // William is my first husband; we were married for twenty years, and we have been divorced for about as long as well. We are friendly, I would see him intermittently; we both were living in New York City, where we came when we first married. But because my (second) husband had died and his (third) wife left him, I had seen him more this past year. // About the time his third wife left him, William found out that he had a half-sister in Maine” (3-4).

The story continues, “I am a novelist, and I had a book coming out that fall, and so after our trip to Grand Cayman I had a great deal of traveling to do around the country and I did it; this was in late October. I was also scheduled to go to Italy and Germany in the beginning of March, but in early December—it was kind of odd—I just decided I was not going to go to those places. I never cancel book tours and the publishers were not happy, but I was not going to go. As March approached, someone said, ‘Good thing you didn’t go to Italy, they’re having that virus.’ And that’s when I noticed it. I think that was the first time. I did not really think about it ever coming to New York. // But William did” (5-6).

One day, “William called me that night and said, ‘Lucy, I’m picking you up tomorrow morning and we’re leaving.’ // It was a strange thing; I mean that I was not alarmed but I was still kind of surprised at his insistence. ‘But where are we going?’ I asked. // And he said, ‘The coast of Maine.’ // ‘Maine’ I said. ‘Are you kidding? We’re going back to Maine?’ // ‘I’ll explain,’ he said. ‘Just please get yourself ready,’ // I called the girls to tell them what their father had suggested, and they both said, ‘Just a few weeks, Mom.’

Lastly. “Here is what I did not know that morning in March: I did not know that I would never see my apartment again. I did not know that my entire life would become something new” (12).

Elizabeth Strout is one of the finest living writers I have ever read. Don’t miss this writer and all her other books. 10 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!