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Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews603 followers
October 23, 2019

Elizabeth Strout begins with Tommy Guptill who once owned a dairy farm in Amgash,
Illinois. The house had burned down. His family had to move to a more run-down town. Their family went from having their home be a place that class trips came to-- --to having to see their father push a broom as a janitor at their school.
The kids were now grown, his wife 82 years old.....and as Tommy said...
"Well, they had all lived through it".

Elizabeth Strout weaves together distinctive stories where we are left to marvel at the difficulties - history -and life changing experiences of the many characters.

One of the characters that stands out for me was Patty Nicely. Patty understood that most people were only interested in themselves. Except, Sebastian, ( her Sibby, husband; no longer alive), he had been interested in her, and she had been terribly interested in him.
"This was the skin that protected you from the world – – this loving of another person you shared your life with".
Knowing about Sibby's painful childhood - and teen years deepen her own compassion and commitment to the work she did working with adolescents as a school counselor. After a student calls her 'Fatty Patty', the shifting dynamics and tensions are significant. The conclusion to this story left a deep 'thankful' lasting impression on me.

A little funny: Angelina visits her 78 year old mother, Mary. The 'entire' story emphasizes the bonds between mother and daughter....which goes deeper than the swim - funny - they are about to take:
Angelina says, "Mom, you're wearing a bikini"
"A two-piece, honey. Look around. Do you see one person wearing a one-piece? Except for you? Mary put her goggles on and walked into the water".

Wonderful imagery of windmills, cornfields, and bright soybeans in summertime,
Lovely feelings of an old fashion town with red houses, black shutters, with a swing porch, deeply moving intimate prose, psychological awakenings of characters, and we come away with ....anything is possible for anyone.

Thank You Random House, Netgalley, and Elizabeth Strout....( I LOVE YOU)
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,711 reviews25k followers
February 20, 2018
This is a wondrous book, it is my first read by Elizabeth Strout and I was just so impressed. It is a beautifully written collection of 9 short stories set in Amgash, Illinois. We encounter Lucy Barton through the perspectives of others, where she comes across as a wonderful woman, she has survived difficult circumstances, to become a renowned writer of a well received memoir. I get to finally meet her in Sister, where she finally returns to Amgash only to find it is more than she can bear. Strout's talent in creating and developing diverse characters with such complexity, depth and ordinariness is extraordinary. You meet and learn more about the history and fate of the characters as they criss cross across the stories.

The kind and humble Tommy Guptill lost his farm and livelihood when it burned down. His family had to relocate to a poorer part of town and he becomes a janitor at Lucy's school. He received a sign which he has never told anyone else about until he has an uncomfortable encounter with Pete, Lucy's brother. Patty comes to understand that we love imperfectly. Linda's marriage into wealth is of scarce recompense when it comes to the price paid for having Jay as a husband. Charlie's need and relationship with Tracy leads to his marriage crumbling. A mother and daughter relationship gains perspective and depth in Italy. Dottie handles with aplomb the atrocious behaviour of a couple who come to stay at her bed and breakfast. Annie comes to understand why her father forbids her to go into the woods and just how judgmental the local community can be. Abel Blaine, a good man, carries the guilt of being well off, having grown up with extreme poverty. Upon trying to retrieve Sophia's pony, he meets and is forced to converse with Scrooge. His thankfulness in receiving a precious gift leads him to the perfect knowledge that anything is possible for anyone. This almost has me weeping.

I am finding it hard to put into words just how much I loved these short stories. The characters have so much grace, humour and love amidst the loss, hardships and travails that life brings. Of course, there are troubled, unkind, difficult, and judgmental characters, but this is what people comprise of. Strout finds the emotional heart and humanity of the Amgash community, and leaves the reader wanting more. Simply brilliant. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
February 10, 2017
Linked stories from Lucy Barton's home town and the people that made up the town. First story features Charlie, former maintenance man at the school the Barton children attended, an elderly man who remembers Lucy and tried to be kind to her, though many didn't. The Barton's too poor and in fact Lucy's brother Pete still lives alone, in the dilapidated house of his youth. Charlie makes a point to visit this lonesome and strange man though he has good reason to write the whole family off as you will see when you read this wonderfully thought out novel.

All have stories to tell, of past and present, and they are startling in some of their admissions. Stout has a fantastic understanding of the sorrows, fears, secrets and the many ambiguities that make up the human condition. Not only does she understand but that she is able to put them down so succinctly is admirable. Her deft hand with dialogue is also a big plus. All these stories are interesting, some appalling but taken as a whole we garner a pretty good understanding of where Lucy came from and what and who has changed since she left.

Lucy herself puts in an appearance to visit her brother and sister, a visit that has a startling finish. Sometimes you can physically leave a place but the scars still linger. A short novel, but one that contains much. Another fantastic offering from this very proficient author.

ARC from Netgalley and Random House
Release date: April 25th, 2017.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,191 followers
March 21, 2019
Elizabeth Strout is one of our best contemporary authors, so I was thrilled to get an advanced copy of this book. I was especially excited to read it because this book is a continuation of My Name Is Lucy Barton, which was moving in so many ways. I was definitely not disappointed. This is a collection of connected stories and probably could be read as a stand alone, but I have to admit that my enjoyment and appreciation of it was enhanced by having met Lucy previously.

Some of the unspoken things we surmised about Lucy's childhood from Strout's previous book, are confirmed in the first story, "The Sign". Tommy, the school maintenance man tells some sad and lovely anecdotes about Lucy. This was my favorite story. Of course it's ultimately Tommy's story. Not only was he kind to Lucy as a young girl but his kindness continues with looking in on Lucy's recluse brother Pete. Even though these stories are about some of the people in Lucy's past,she is ever present in these character's memories. In "Windmills" Patty, a guidance counselor, remembers the tough life Lucy and her siblings had as children and is inspired by Lucy's new book, a memoir, inspired enough to help Lucy's niece get into college. She does this in spite of the rudeness shown to her by the girl. It isn't just the memories that people have of Lucy and their past connection to her, but Lucy herself appears front and center in the story, "Sister". Here in a visit with her brother and sister, they confront some of the terrible things they endured at the hands of poor and unfit parents. Yet what is so a amazing to me is that in spite of everything, in spite of Vicky's resentment that Lucy left, there is love between these siblings. "The Gift" about one of Lucy's cousins is one that impressed me as well. This one too has memories which ultimately make Abel believe that anything is possible as do many of the other characters.

This is structured in a similar way to Olive Kitteridge, with stories that connect so intimately that it had for me the feel of a novel. The writing flows, not an extra word, and the picture she gives of these characters is as clear as if we knew them ourselves. Strout always gives us the realty of living, of the human condition with the sometimes gritty, tough and sad parts along with the beautiful things that give hope and possibility. She remains one of my favorite writers.

I received an advanced copy of this from Random House Publishing Group - Random House through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,514 reviews29.4k followers
May 26, 2017
I'm between 4 and 4.5 stars here.

I don't know about you, but people watching utterly fascinates me. It's really amusing to watch the dynamics of families and groups of friends, but what's even more fun is making up stories about those we see, developing a narrative about their relationships, challenges, and victories. (It would be great to find out how far from the truth these stories are, wouldn't it?)

Reading Elizabeth Strout's new collection of linked stories, Anything is Possible , feels like a cross between people-watching and eavesdropping, because the stories give you glimpses into people's lives you might not ordinarily get, without facing the embarrassing risk of getting caught. These stories are beautifully written, at times utterly moving, and, like people-watching, often truly fascinating and compelling.

I haven't read Strout's My Name is Lucy Barton , but the stories in this collection feature Lucy's small Midwestern hometown of Amgash, Illinois, and Lucy has a presence in many of the stories, and an adult Lucy is a character in one. These are stories of people struggling with challenges—emotional, romantic, familial, professional, even philosophical. As Strout says of a character in one of her stories, but this applies to most of them, "Life had simply not been what she thought it would be."

My favorites in this collection included: "The Sign," in which an elderly man finds his faith tested after a conversation he has with a troubled man he occasionally looks after; "Sister," where an adult Lucy Barton returns to her hometown and her siblings after being away for nearly 20 years; "The Hit-Thumb Theory," about a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD who has a dilemma that could radically change the course of his life, and he finds a moment's solace in a small bed-and-breakfast; "Windmills," in which a lonely widow changes her life after reading a book written by someone from her hometown; and "Snow-Blind," about a shocking discovery a young actress makes after she has left her family behind.

These are not happy, well-adjusted people in many cases. A few of the stories deal with odd sexual situations, and at times the characters are quite mean to each other. But Strout's talent as a storyteller makes even the somewhat bizarre stories, and those with unappealing characters interesting, and you want to keep reading them.

Interestingly enough, I've only read one of Strout's earlier books, The Burgess Boys , and I didn't like it that much. But now I'll definitely need to read more of her work, because I really found these stories moving and so well-written. If I had any criticism, it's that she uses subsequent stories to advance the plot of previous ones, referring to a character and saying, "Did you hear that so-and-so did...?" But that was a minor irritation for me.

I know short stories, even linked ones, don't appeal to everyone. But Anything is Possible feels a little like hanging out a party—you spend some time with lots of different people and get the opportunity to hear something about their lives and what makes them tick, then you move on. But the good news is, you don't have to bring an appetizer, help clean up, or worry how you're going to get home afterward.

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,101 reviews7,196 followers
June 13, 2023
A collection of inter-connected short stories by the author of Olive Kitteridge, which I have previously read and enjoyed. Olive was set in small-town Maine; this book is set in a hard-up small farming town in Illinois.


An underlying theme in a lot of the stories is about class and, to a large extent, as I’ve written about the novels of Richard Russo, about movers and stayers. In Strout’s stories those who left did well and they tend not to have been back home for years. One young woman who left became a famous author, another a famous actress. A young man left to marry into money and is now a hot-shot CEO after working his way up in his father-in-law’s business.

Those who stayed tend to be folks who now work as a nurse’s aide in an old folk’s home; as a janitor, as a part-time helper in a food kitchen or who run a bed and breakfast.

Several male characters were damaged physically or psychologically by wars. Some are fathers who served in WW II; some are their sons who served in Vietnam.

The fictional writer, named Lucy Barton, is one of the common denominators holding the stories together. I have not read Strout’s novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, but that’s her. She’s like a ghost who has not been back to town for over a decade, even though she has a brother and sister there.

Unless you have a good head for names it’s sometimes hard to catch on right away about how the character in the latest story is connected to earlier ones until you realize, “Oh, that’s the distressed girl who came into the guidance counselor’s office, two chapters ago.”

I’m always amazed at the creativity of short story writers in coming up with new storylines. In the hundreds of short stories I’ve read by different authors over the years, it is seldom that I’ve come across identical plots. Some aspects overlap once in a while. For example, there’s a minor female character in one of these stories whose life has been ruined by her son, now in prison for killing a woman. There was a similar character in Olive, perhaps the same person.


A few examples of the nine stories:

In The Sign, we don’t know it at the start of the book, but this story is set in the home Lucy Barton grew up in, and one of the two characters in the story is her brother. An older neighbor knows her brother lives alone, almost in isolation. He knew the brother as a young man so he stops by occasionally to see how he’s doing and to check up on him. (And that’s another theme in a lot of these stories – people CARE about others even when sometimes their concerns are rebuffed.) The neighbor who is visiting had lost his farm when he was in his thirties and became a school janitor for the rest of his life.

In Sister, Lucy Barton returns after more than a decade to visit her brother and sister. Initially her sister doesn’t even want to bother to come to the old homestead to see her. Lucy acts as the moderator, encouraging her siblings to talk about the old days, good and bad. Their childhood was so hard they had to occasionally scrounge for food. (The kids in more than one story in this collection scrounged food out of dumpsters.) As the conversation progresses, Lucy hears of things she has forgotten, learns of new family atrocities, and hears missing pieces of things that did not make sense when she was a child.

In Snow Blind, the famous local actress comes back to town after years of absence. Her siblings and her mother don’t really care that she's back. Her father is institutionalized with Alzheimer’s. She too had a traumatic childhood. Her only escape was wandering in the nearby woods. One day her father absolutely prohibited her from ever going into the woods again. She never knew why until now.

All good stories and very well-written.

A few lines I liked:

An aging mother listening to her daughter: “My goodness, Mary said, thinking: Who was it that raised this girl?”

A woman living in Italy: “Oh, I know, honey. It just amazed me when I came here. Then I figured it out – the women are just versions of people pulling up to Walmart in their cars. Only they’re on a bike.”

“ ‘Jesus is your friend,’ the new chaplain would say, with silly pontification, as though he were dispensing Jesus Pills that only he was in charge of.”

“…and all things considered – and there were many things to consider …”


The author was born in Portland, Maine in 1956. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge which sold more than a million copies. Her latest book is Lucy by the Sea.

Photos of small towns in Illinois; top Galena from; middle photo from
Photo of the author from

[Edited 6/13/23]
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,271 reviews2,439 followers
March 14, 2023
I simply love reading Elizabeth Strout's books. I feel like having a calm meditation with open eyes while gently going through the perfectly crafted works by the author.

This book tells us about two sisters. Here we can see Lucy Barton through the eyes of other people.

My favorite three lines from this book.
“People could surprise you. Not just their kindness, but also their sudden ability to express things the right way."

“Everyone, she understood, was mainly and mostly interested in themselves.”

“To listen to a person is not passive. To really listen is active.”

We can see love, jealousy, loneliness, and all other feelings that we can commonly see in a family beautifully described by the author. If you are someone who loved My name is Lucy Barton, you won't go wrong with this book.

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Profile Image for Cheri.
1,798 reviews2,389 followers
August 9, 2021

Once again, Elizabeth Strout has exquisitely examined and shared the life of a small group of people in a small town in this lovely compilation of intermingled stories that form this novel. If you’ve already read My Name is Lucy Barton, you’ll be familiar with many of them, and with Lucy.

In “Anything is Possible”, the focus is again on the relationships, in this case most are relatives of one degree or another of Lucy. Siblings. Cousins. Parents. Strained relationships in one way or another, all. Some have shared stories, shameful secrets that they hold close, they can’t share them, can’t lose them, so they continue to hold onto them to hide them from the prying eyes of others.

Amgash, Illinois isn’t so much the town that Lucy grew up in; it’s more the small town that Lucy’s family lived on the outskirts of, out where the beyond poor lived. And all through these days in this place, these places, these people, Strout weaves magical links through each of their stories, binding them together in secrets, shame, humility, compassionate service, laughter, pain, fear. All the sorrows, all in the loveliest of simple prose, never using a single unnecessary word, yet leaving nothing unsaid. Each story serves a purpose, conveys a message. This is about Life. These particular lives, yes, but it’s really about every life, all lives. How we hold onto those moments as long as we hold onto life, carrying things we should set down, left behind long ago, but we carry these with us. Never setting them down. Never without them. And yet, we somehow carry on.

Highly recommended.

Published: 25 April 2017

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,194 reviews1,815 followers
November 25, 2022

Main street.

Lila è un adolescente dura e dalla lingua sferzante, ma ha buoni voti e riuscirà a ottenere una borsa di studio e andare al college, nonostante sia piuttosto povera, infatti sua madre Vickie chiede continuamente soldi in prestito alla sorella, che è Lucy Barton, ed entrambe le sorelle sanno che quei soldi non verranno mai restituiti.

E Lila, che sono sicuro Strout pronuncia Laila, è la nipote di Lucy Barton, che era povera in canna e cresciuta in una famiglia disfunzionale, ma ha imparato tanto, ha fatto strada, ora vive a New York, i suoi libri sono famosi ed esposti nelle vetrine, Lucy è diventata una scrittrice di successo, come lo è la stessa Strout, come lo è Elena, cioè Lenù, l’io narrante dell’Amica geniale.

Main street.

Non voglio dire che Strout si sia ispirata alla saga di Elena Ferrante, scrittrice e collega che lei ammira molto, ma che l’opera ferrantiana è andata a fondo, è entrata dentro, è diventata elemento dell’immaginario di una parte della collettività.
Oppure, voglio dire che nella saga di Lila e Lenù c’è talmente tanto materiale, umano e letterario, esistenziale e culturale, che è facile trovarne traccia qui e là.

Allo stesso tempo mi viene in mente che Lucy potrebbe fare di cognome Kitteridge, oppure Olive chiamarsi Barton: non si assomigliano affatto, ma è la struttura del romanzo a essere molto simile, costruita com’è su racconti slegati uno dall’altro, come di solito sono le raccolte di racconti, ma anche collegati, perché i personaggi di uno conoscono quelli di un altro, sono andati a scuola insieme, vengono dalla stessa comunità, entrano ed escono da un racconto all’altro, a volte narratori, a volte narrati.


E Lucy Barton non è mai il nostro punto di vista: di lei sentiamo e apprendiamo attraverso occhi e parole di altri personaggi.
Ce la ricordiamo in un letto d’ospedale a New York, un marito, la visita della madre, donna che non si vorrebbe avere intorno, e invece in quei giorni di assistenza ospedaliera si rivela molto più umana delle previsioni. Poi, Lucy guarisce, divorzia, scrive un altro libro: ed eccola qui, in tour per gli Stati Uniti a promuoverlo, firmando copie e dediche.
Nel suo giro promozionale torna anche a casa sua, ad Amgash, dalle parti di Chicago (geograficamente, nulla a che vedere con la Falls del Maine dove sono ambientati i primi romanzi della Strout, in realtà son tante le similitudini), e rivede fratello e sorella, la "orrida" Vickie e Pete.

In queste pagine Strout spinge i suoi personaggi su sentieri diversi dal solito, li porta sull’orlo di fatti ed emozioni più rischiosi del solito: è un’umanità in parte diversa dalla Strout che conosco, più contemporanea, meno racchiusa in quello stereotipo letterario alla Haruf, un po’ fuori dal tempo e a volte un po’ troppo dolciastro, che acchiappa ma a distanza convince sempre meno.
Qui, invece, mi pare di incontrare gente più contemporanea e più verosimile, si parla di cose e succedono cose che sembrano più credibili e attuali: inclusa (perfino!) una ricca coppia che nella loro villa da archi star (alle pareti Picasso e Hopper) ospitano nella dependance donne artiste in visita, di modo che lui, il marito padrone di casa, possa spiarle mentre fanno la doccia e si infilano il pigiama con le telecamere nascoste nei muri collegate al suo portatile, e magari anche tentare di stuprarle, o farlo davvero, chissà, Strout viene dalla scuola buona e lascia il finale incerto.

Questa volta Strout mi regala una sensazione che mi piace più del solito, mi porta un po’ più in là: la sensazione di parlare di sentimenti che si spingono oltre i canoni, quella di esplorare territori più rischiosi, dove, per esempio, abitano perversione, crudeltà, deviazione, dove la gente ha voglia, e bisogno, di lavarsi l’anima, dove il più affascinante di tutti è l’Uomo dal Dolore Indicibile (altro personaggio che spunta in vari racconti).

La provincia, Midwest o East Coast, è sempre quella dove si vive nell’illusione di conoscersi tutti, la gente si incrocia ogni giorno, per cinquant’anni, e crede di conoscere chi vede e saluta, ma non sanno davvero nulla l’uno dell’altro, solo l’apparenza, solo il vestito, il paesaggio interiore rimane sconosciuto, si afferra qualcosa solo di quello esteriore.

La gente in queste pagine, i reduci di guerra, le obese, quelli con problemi sessuali o del tutto senza vita sessuale, sembrano tutti sempre comunicare di più nel silenzio, anche se il desiderio di essere compresi, la paura di non esserlo, spingono alla parola. In quei rari momenti in cui si concretizza l’urgenza d’essere accolti, e in genere si tratta di un momento di grazia, s’istaura connessione, che forse è anche comprensione. Ma non necessariamente. Può succedere.

La casa nella prateria.

Tutto può succedere è, in fondo, questo: può succedere che a settant’anni s’incontri l’amore su un lungomare d’Italia - ma anche no, quell’amore può finire, ma anche no. Può succedere che una pena indicibile possa essere consolata per una sera davanti alla tv di un b&b - ma anche no, oppure il dolore si ripresenta altrettanto indicibile la mattina dopo, ma anche no, e comunque rimane quell’attimo di gentilezza, di grazia, cui voltarsi, cui aggrapparsi. Può succedere che il padre che ti ha tenuto per mano da bambina camminando verso casa, donandoti il momento di gioia più intenso della tua vita, da vecchio diventi demente e si scopra che ha nascosto alla famiglia la sua omosessualità per tutta la vita, nonostante abbia avuto una lunghissima relazione con un uomo.
Sprazzi imprevedibili in grado di toccare e connettere l’uno l’altro, respiri, senso.

L’illustrazione di copertina di Giordano Poloni.

Col tempo Strout ha imparato a risparmiare parole, i suoi ultimi due libri sono più snelli dei quattro che hanno preceduto: eppure sembrano più ricchi, più polposi.
Come al solito con i suoi libri il finale è il punto dolente: questa volta il vaso della melassa rimane in dispensa, ma è comunque la zona più zoppicante del romanzo, la più palesemente costruita, un po’ artificiosa, un po’ zoppicante.

Elizabeth Strout nel film documentario "La prodigieuse Elena Ferrante", andato in onda sul canale franco-tedesco Arte nel marzo del 2018.
Profile Image for Debbie.
454 reviews2,895 followers
November 15, 2017
Firecrackers in my soul!!!

Socks knocked off AGAIN! My feet are cold, but my soul is on fire. This collection of stories goes directly to my all-time-favorites shelf. Brilliant, just brilliant. I can barely sit still just thinking about it.

I wasn’t super hot to try this collection, because even though I gave My Name Is Lucy Barton 4 stars, I wasn’t all a-gush. I had loved its subtle tension and its introspection, but I had had sort of a hefty Complaint Board. My biggest gripes were that Lucy and her mom were too passive, and everything seemed a little too vague, like it was coated in Valium.

So when I heard that this book had to do with Lucy and the small town where she grew up, I was skeptical. What if passivity, vagueness, and boring country folks were the scene? What if my need for jazz and pizazz was again a “tough luck, kiddo”? But I was curious after reading umpteen-million gushing reviews.

When I started reading, though, a big “uh oh” slipped from my lips. The first story, BAM, there’s a barn and the God word. I don’t want any “oh, gosh” tractor talk and canned-peaches speak, please! I figured I was doomed. But despite my fears, I got totally drawn into the story and ended up loving it. Loneliness, secrets, guilt, memories, reaching out to strangers—these are things I remember when I think about this story. The dialogue is intense and brilliant, and the atmosphere is stark, and if you put the talk inside the stark you get high drama, even though there isn’t some big event making it happen. I fully expected to remain on a farm throughout the rest of the stories, but I was okay with it since story number 1 had been so powerful.

When I got to story number 2, though, it was a totally different vibe. It was about a guidance counselor. She was in a small town but there wasn’t any God or peaches. The small town was not the point. This story, too, was insightful, and I loved it.

Don’t worry, I won’t list stories number 3 through 9 and tell you the same thing, that it was oh so insightful and I loved it to death, yada yada, though both are true. One of the things that impressed me was how different each story is. The setting, the personalities, the theme, the vibe—all varied. How did Strout do this? The only word I come up with is genius. As I began each story, I wiggled with glee, oh who are we going to visit today? I couldn’t wait to get there. And I was never disappointed. Not only did I get to sit down in their living rooms, but I also got to sit down inside their heads—oh is that the beauty of literature or what?!

Strout has a way of making you feel like you really know these people she creates. Truly, she has amazing psychological insight, and as I implied, she is a master at letting you wander inside her characters’ heads. Her characters repress, express, ponder, hesitate, spill the beans, withhold, confess, get anxious or sad, and very occasionally find peace. Her stories all zero in on intense interactions—between a guidance counselor and a troubled student, a PTSD veteran and a desperate hooker, a grandfather and a crazed actor. These interactions are all buzzy and quiet at the same time.

Each story is self-contained and has closure (oh how I love closure), and yet they are interconnected in this cool way. I felt like I was looking at a high school yearbook, with a journalist (ha, or a gossip) sitting beside me, telling me in detail how each person turned out—or actually, taking me over to their house so I can see them in action. I must reread Lucy Barton because I’m dying to hear the gossip that I didn’t care about before. I’m all ears now.

Another miraculous thing is that each story has the depth of a novel. Strout serves up robust characters in a well-developed plot, and tops it off with a believable, satisfying, and often profound ending—and she does all this in the cramped span of a short story. Rich rich rich is all I can say.

I had my favorites, of course, though I can honestly say I loved every one of the stories. Okay, okay, if I had to say which one I liked least, it would be “Mississippi Mary,” which was about a daughter who goes to visit her mother in Italy. I figured out that it was my least favorite because it was about a mother-daughter relationship, and I had an epiphany: I didn’t have a good relationship with my mother, so I don’t want to hear about mother-daughter stuff—good or bad. So, ta-da! I’m thinking that’s why I didn’t completely love My Name is Lucy Barton.

My absolute favorite story was “Sister,” which was about Lucy coming home to visit her brother and sister. (This was the only story about Lucy, even though she is mentioned in several stories.) There’s an odd story about a perverted husband, which is also high on my list, and a funny story about a pissed-off B&B owner. Another favorite was the last story, “Gift,” about a grandfather stuck in a room with a crazed actor. Oh my god was it great.

Time for a list of favorites (pulled from various stories):

Favorite scene: a woman having a panic attack

Favorite line:

"No one should be in a room with a man who's at the end of his rope."

Second favorite line:

“Don’t you go pissing down my back and then tell me it’s raining outside.”

This line is pretty cool, too:

“To listen to a person is not passive. To really listen is active, and Dottie had really listened.”

Can you tell this character is a little depressed?--

"You could buy a snow blower or a nice wool dress for your wife, but beneath it all people were rats scurrying off to find garbage to eat, another rat to hump, making a nest in broken bricks, and soiling it so sourly that one’s contribution to the world was only more excrement."

Here is one of my favorite dialogues. The funny thing is, the woman talking isn’t in the least crazy—she’s just pissed. And her comments totally make sense, though Dr. Small doesn’t know it:

“'Precisely what I said is what I mean. I offer guests a bed, and I offer them breakfast. I do not offer them counsel from lives they find unendurable.’ She closed her eyes briefly, then continued, ‘Or from marriages that are living deaths, from disappointments suffered at the hands of poor friends who regard their houses as a penis. This is not what I do.’”

“'Jesus,” said Dr. Small, who was backing away from her. “You’re a whackjob.'”

I could keep adding quotes but I don’t want my review to be any more gargantuan than it already is. I did get my jazz and pizazz, oh yes. And as far as I'm concerned, these stories are perfection. I don’t have even one item to put on my Complaint Board; it’s in the shed, collecting cobwebs.

I hope that this wasn’t Strout’s sole trip into short-story land; I want her to stay there. O’Henry, Cheever, Carver—move over. Her stories are as deep and wavy as the ocean. I really think I will remember them all.
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews532 followers
January 16, 2019
Art refreshingly revealing how anything's possible when one person honestly, authentically connects with another.
"Lucy, Lucy, Lucy B, where did you go to, how did you flee?"

Following the critical success of Olive Kitteridge and My Name Is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout strops her razor-sharp discernment of human psyche, its nuances, uncertainties and frailty, and in conflict with itself in confronting moral depravity. Anything is Possible is a collection of nine interrelated stories set around Lucy Barton, a celebrated writer who grew up in extreme poverty in an ostracized family, and her hometown farming community of Amgash, Illinois.

While the tales cover many of the folks making brief appearances in My Name Is Lucy Barton, reading that rather thin novel is no prerequisite. Yet, if you liked it, you must read these stellar shorts that illuminate the novel's cast of characters. Strout evokes gorgeous, revealing imagery. Her singular skill though lies in creating dialogue so loaded with what is not said within stories brimming with genuine moral and family strife.

In the first story, "The Sign," a retired school janitor visits Lucy's isolated brother Pete to check on him. The encounter palpates with a tension arising from long circulating whispers that his and Lucy's long-deceased dad burned down the man's barn after being fired for polishing his sausage behind it. The arson caused the janitor to lose his farm and forced him into the custodial job. Their conversation, in which the janitor shared a spiritual awakening he had while watching the "burning barn," led to Pete's contemplating years of his mother's emotional neglect.

The second and third stories cannily contrast the life paths taken by the two Nicely sisters. In "Windmills," Patty contemplates a life racked by insecurities arising from a weight problems and an unhealthy modesty, even prudishness, wrought by the shock of walking in on her mom having extramarital sex with one of Patty's teachers, vexed by an indelible image of her mother's "braless ... breasts swaying as that man grabbed one in his mouth." "Cracked" peeks into the home of the amoral and vacuous Linda and her husband, a violent sexual pervert.

In "The Hit-Thumb Theory," a Vietnam vet, trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage, seeks solace and sexual healing from a prostitute who no longer charges for her services because, she says, she's in love with him. He discovers that sex in "love" can be much more expensive.

Other stories involve everything from the relationship between a daughter and her mother, nicknamed Mississippi Mary, who fell in love on a trip to Italy then left her husband ten years later to move to Italy and marry her lover; Lucy making a brief return trip to her childhood home with unexpected consequences; a widowed cousin, running her own bed and breakfast, exacts a small act of vengeance on snobbish married guests who make it a point to offend her; and, another cousin returns to the local theatre after a performance of The Christmas Carol to retrieve his granddaughter's teddy bear only to be confronted by the down-on-his-luck, suicidal actor who played Scrooge.

In the most revealing story ,"Snow Blind," an actress's elderly, demented father has been committed for psychiatric treatment and begins repeatedly spilling the beans on his secret life in graphic ways. "Annie ... thought how for years onstage she had used the image of walking up the dirt road holding her father's hand, the snow-covered fields spread around them, the woods in the distance, joy spilling through her--how she had used this scene to have tears immediately come to her eyes, for the happiness of it, and the loss of it. And now she wondered if it had even happened, if the road had ever been narrow and dirt, if her father had ever held her hand and said that his family was the most important thing to him."

More than simply examining the question of how sincerely good, virtuous people endure pettiness and ruthlessness, Strout delves deeper: into the human condition of the people who harm, in a way that wisely, subtly and mercifully looks at the root causes so that we might understand these scoundrels as spiritually sick people.

Each of the stories in Anything is Possible is poignant and hopeful, yet tending toward heart-haunting. Collectively, they represent art that refreshingly reveals how anything is possible when one human makes an honest, authentic connection with another.

Thank you, Random House and NetGalley, for providing an ARC of this outstanding book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Candi.
622 reviews4,715 followers
March 27, 2020
"I could understand things, like about the human heart, from a very young age." – Elizabeth Strout

My copy of this astonishing, soul-penetrating collection includes a question and answer session with Elizabeth Strout at the end. When asked about her sense of creativity, she completes her response with the above revelation. There can be no other reason why her writing is so compelling and affecting! This in essence sums up what makes her work so truly special and superior to nearly all of the contemporary fiction on the bookshelves right now. It makes everything else pale in comparison.

A couple of years ago I read Strout’s novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, and was bowled over by the fact that such deceivingly clean and sparse prose could contain such remarkable insight into the human condition. The same is true in Anything is Possible. This contains a set of interconnected short stories that all have their ties to Lucy Barton – those folks that knew her or lived in her hometown of Amgash, Illinois during her troubled childhood. Every person in this story knows the meaning of struggle, loss, shame, loneliness, and pain. Just as each and every one of us has felt these same things. You can see a little piece of yourself in so many of her characters. Sibling relationships, romantic relationships, marriages, and parent-child relationships are examined with piercing clarity. My heart ached not just for these individuals, but for myself and my own ‘people’ as well. Why do we seem to hurt one another so easily? When love seems on surface such an easy thing to give and take, why is it ultimately so sticky and full of regret? Either I am becoming a big softy with each passing year, or I’m becoming more and more in tune with what makes us all tied together in this big, muddled world. Strout doesn’t just show us the bitter and messy side, however. She also points towards hope, forgiveness, and grace.

"We’re all just a mess… trying as hard as we can, we love imperfectly… but it’s okay."

If you’ve not read anything by Elizabeth Strout yet, do yourself a favor and do so right away. Now is the time, while each of us should surely be able to grasp the fact that we are all fastened to this unpredictable world. While feeling physically isolated from one another, somehow we are all together fighting against the same evil and longing for the very same things. We’re not so very different after all, are we?

"It was the tall white windmills that came to her mind. How their skinny long arms all turned, but never together, except for just once in a while two of them would be turning in unison, their arms poised at the same place in the sky."
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
505 reviews1,485 followers
May 23, 2017
Strout has quickly become for me a go-to-author. She creates memorable and complex characters for the simplest of stories.
Everything is Possible is an attestation to this. She links the character from my Name is Lucy Barton and weaves her into vignettes of the townspeople she grew up with. Those who knew of her as she was able to flee the stifling small town and successfully move on from her own sadness and despair. Themes of forgiveness, redemption and love of family and friends, because quite honestly, anything is possible when one is transparent with their emotions.

I'm not a fan of the short story by any stretch but the writing here is lyrical and smooth.

I remain a devout Strout fan. 4****
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,951 followers
November 22, 2017
Once again, here is another book I read for a Goodreads challenge on audio. And it's another one I'm going to buy and add to my collection. BUT! I need to buy the first book (Lucy Barton) first. I had no idea this was the second book in that story line.

I loved everything about this book as well and the narrator was awesome!

I absolutely loved it!

Happy Reading!

Mel ♥
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,168 reviews37.3k followers
July 5, 2020
After having read “Olive Kitteridge,” I quickly decided to snap up every book by the esteemed Elizabeth Strout that I could. There is something about Elizabeth Strout's writing that I adore. Her ability to understand and delve into the human psyche, dysfunction and family is truly insightful. Her writing style is brilliant, beautiful, masterful - yet sometimes sad and devastatingly honest. Having just finished “My Name Is Lucy Barton” I knew that I needed to read the next book in the series, “Anything is Possible” - which contains vignettes about individuals whose lives are connected to Lucy Barton, most of whom live in Amgash, Illinois or thereabouts.

The vignettes are about individuals whose lives are anything but easy. Who struggle day in day out bound together in one way or another. Different aspects of their lives are shown with grace, compassion, humility and sincerity. There is compassion, bravery, depravity, grace, kindness, morality, shame, sorrow and so much more in these stories, which only highlights the mastery in Ms. Strout’s writing.

My favorite vignettes are:

“The Sign”: involving Tommy, the school janitor and Pete (Lucy’s brother), when Tommy helps Pete through tough times, “Sister”: involving Pete, Lucy and Vicky (their sister) who reunite after many years apart to face their past and “The Gift”: involving Abel, (Lucy’s cousin) who has a cathartic moment at the theatre in Chicago.

To say that I adored this novel, the writing and the narration (done by the stellar Kimberly Farr) is an understatement. Elizabeth Strout has now become one of my favorite authors and I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next.

Thank you to my local library for loaning me the audiobook.

Published on Goodreads on 7.3.20.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
575 reviews762 followers
May 27, 2017
I haven't read My Name is Lucy Barton but after finishing this I totally want to, also maybe if I would have read it before hand I'd have given this five stars. I really enjoyed the writing style, I actually felt the difference between chapters when the point of view shifted to that of another character which is amazing in my opinion because everyone has a certain writing style and because of that a lot of the characters end up being written similar enough that you don't really feel the shift as much from one point of view to the next. I don't really like short stories that much but I enjoyed this because all the stories seemed to be threaded around the common theme of Lucy and happening in the same story line enough so that I didn't feel like they were short stories but a sort of continuing narrative. I also loved how complex the characters were, so many of them had faults but I really could empathize with them and how they ended up in the situation and so many times I felt really emotional about the character's problems even though they're supposed to be fictional and all, it just really upset me especially the ending with Abel and the whole time Lucy was visiting her brother Pete and the whole beginning of the story with Tommy. I very much enjoyed this and I really need to read more of Elizabeth Strout's writing now.

Profile Image for Debra .
2,421 reviews35.2k followers
August 3, 2017
4.5 stars

There is something so wonderfully absorbing and enthralling about Stout's books. I am absolutely certain that Stout could write a book about watching pain peel off a wall and I would read it. I love her writing. I read books and think that they are good and then I read Stout and think "Yes! Yes! Yes!" I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it is that draws me to her writing. She has a gift. She is a brilliant Author who can take people and their lives and add a certain type of brilliance to their story.

This book was written in tandem to "My name is Lucy Barton" and showcases the people who grew up with Lucy and continue to live in their small town. Each had some type of connection to either Lucy Barton herself or her family. Their stories are told in the form of short stories. I am not a short story fan but I loved these beautifully written short stories. These short stories are about people and their relationships. The people struggle with love, greed, jealousy, abandonment, loneliness, ptsd, and guilt to name a few. Her characters are well developed, interesting, likable (some not likable), and compelling. Some characters are full of compassion, understanding, humor, and are able to take things as they come. They do not let hardship get in their way of living a full life, while other characters are uncaring, sick, and have their own personal demons.

I am not going to give a synopsis of this book. Please seek out a copy and read this for yourself. If you have not read stout before, start with "Olive Kitteridge" and go from there. Stout does not disappoint. Her words are her gift. There is something so lovely and graceful about her writing. I love opening up, and falling into her books.

I received a copy of this book from Random House and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

See more of my reviews at
Profile Image for Julie G.
896 reviews2,930 followers
August 5, 2021
I feel so compelled to have your attention right now. Have your attention, but not have it for me, or my words or my ego. . . but for you and your soul and for this book of Ms. Strout's.

Wow. Damn it. It's been a long time since a book has caused me to feel this agitated, this moved, this conflicted.

I had to force myself to walk outside, at a brisk pace, circling my yard several times, before I could commit to sitting down and writing this. Even so, I still feel edgy, irritated, worried that I will lack the skills to communicate what I want to about this collection.

This started out as a perfectly pleasant read for me; I love interconnected short stories, have preferred them as a literary device since my early days of being a Salinger stalker, a lover of all members of the family named Glass, and I felt overjoyed at this discovery and perfectly at home with this writing.

But, three stories in, I felt thwarted, felt my passion wane. Stories number 3 & 4 (out of 9) are. . . well, they're icky. You've got your early sex abuse (sodomy, no less) mentioned in story #2, but it's mentioned in passing, giving us background as to why a man's life was ruined, but in stories #3 and 4. . . Strout takes us to some very dark places with a rapist and then a Vietnam vet struggling with PTSD.

To be honest, I became turned off enough with these stories, I had to take a break from them, to clear my head and debate whether I wanted to continue. I am so very grateful I did.

Short Story #5, Mississippi Mary, is one of the most understated, most brilliant short works of fiction I have ever read in my life, and I am one well-read lady, y'all.

This story made me throw the book away from me, onto a coffee table as I shouted “Fuck!” It also made me run for the post-it notes and start scribbling, then caused me to crack open my journal, writing very hard and very quickly on its pages. Last, it provoked me to take a turn (as Ms. Austen would say) around the garden. Several times.

It's a simple story (in the same way you could say Steinbeck's stories are simple—ha!) in that the entire story takes place in one apartment with two women who are basically. . . talking and thinking. One woman is a 78-year-old mother named Mary, who, after 51 years of marriage, has left her husband for a man named Paolo and his country of Italy. The other is the wounded, forty-something daughter named Angela who is on a hiatus from her marriage, and is still angry at her mother for leaving their father.

Strout is so adept, so brilliant as a writer, she helps you sympathize temporarily with the upset daughter, then flips you over to see Mom's side just as clearly.

Daughter sees mom as simple and a bit ditzy, as a woman who made an impulsive decision to leave a marriage after five decades, and Mother sees daughter as lovely but uninformed and not quite seasoned enough yet to truly comprehend the affairs of the heart or regret or suffering.

I feel stunned by this collection, enough to order my own copy immediately and re-read it all again. I feel compelled to recommend it to you with every cell of my being, and I leave you with one particularly pensive paragraph from Mississippi Mary:

Lying on her bed—where she spent much of her days—Mary looked at the high ceiling and thought that what her daughter could not understand was what it had been like to be so famished. Almost fifty years of being parched. At her husband's forty-first birthday surprise party—and Mary had been so proud to make it for his forty-first so he'd be really surprised, and boy he was really surprised—she had noticed how he did not dance with her, not once. Later she realized he was just not in love with her. And at the fiftieth wedding anniversary party the girls threw them, he did not ask her to dance either.

You never knew anything, and anyone who thought they knew anything—well, they were in for a great big surprise
Profile Image for Peter.
472 reviews2,555 followers
March 20, 2020
Elizabeth Strout has written a remarkable book that communicates 9 different, but intertwined stories. There are various threads running between each story and the dialogue is superbly written to create a telling glimpse into the characters’ lives. Anything is Possible presents a wonderful range and balance between character variety, background and intrigue.

Beautifully depicted are the normal everyday tales we hear from husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, and between siblings, neighbours, friends and strangers. How the actions of one can affect the lives of others. Do we grasp opportunities in life or let them slide by and forever dream - if only? In this human mixture of opportunities, personalities and family, we are treated to an excellent story of families and society, how when that mix is unmasked, what steps we will take to achieve our dreams. Elizabeth Strout vividly portrays an array of family situations, some fractured, some mislaid, some misunderstood and some supportive. Strout draws the best and worst of people, the demons people struggle with, the choices made in life, and the difficult directions we are condemned to ruminate on, over and over.

The attitude of this book is to provide diverse characterisation that is never predictable. It is layered and conflicting and shows man’s capacity for forgiveness and spite. There is a general theme of family separation, and sometimes that’s for the best and other times it has a profound effect on the lives of children and spouses.

I felt drawn to the lives of Pete and Lucy Barton for different reasons. They are both troubled, coming from an extremely poor upbringing, but Lucy has broken free of her childhood environment and achieved success, while Pete has accepted to live the frugal life he has always known. Lucy is a wonderfully drawn character and the prequel My Name is Lucy Barton I have not read but she is so vulnerable that you can't help root for her and protect her from the echoes of her past. Pete, I was expecting the worst in the beginning, but we discover that he is an innocent, sensitive and withdrawn person. Maybe a tad slow but someone who has lost that zest for life.

A book I would highly recommend for its wonderful prose and character developments, and how the dialogue brings the story to life. Many thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books UK, for an ARC version in return for an honest review.
September 12, 2022
I could not tell you for sure whether the sequel Anything is Possible was absolutely necessary, any more than anyone could ever tell for sure when and if writing is indeed needed (the age-old question). At the same time, it would not be a stretch to suggest that a people -- the small town residents of Amgash, Illinois and surroundings -- seem to be needing the possibilities generously granted by storytelling, that they may collectively register the quiet, slow attenuation of imposing, chaotic forces.

'Anthing was possible for anyone', concludes Abel Blaine, on behalf of the Amgash people.

The allure of this sequel, it would seem, is not consumed by the loosely interconnected proliferation of POVs, or at least not in the factuality of this stylistic choice. The character of the land and its ordinary people had already been sketched out in the first installment, if from a distance -- Lucy Barton's detached yet immersive narration. Anything is Possible does therefore lend to the series a sense of proximity and inwardness that echoes Lucy's own narration while 'building the world' -- the human-world constituents -- that close in on all characters, and foreground their repeatedly underscored individualistic tendencies (indeed, they can only be known somewhat -- hence, the counter-movement and fulfilled potentiality of writing -- through the individual chapters allotted to them). Lacuna seem to open up where 'uncontrolled assault[s] of shame' override the possibility of constructing a life beyond the realm of imposed impossibilities: shame, as we know, callously closes doors, and erases its tracks. It is in writing these stories that Shame is acknowledged as the main protagonist in human lives. One might even go as far as suggesting that no other human activity can actually contain shame to the extent that writing does, in the singular ways adopted by writing to bring shame and the dormant poetic of the human condition to the surface: the effect is indeed not unlike a phoenix rising, anew, from the ashes. The reiterated note, in these stories, of pride and embarrassment alike further sustains this point: all characters, linked to Lucy Barton in one way or another, refer to and are caught ruminating about her memoir, which corresponds metafictionally to the first installment of the series. The double or conflicted response to her writing and her momentary return to Amgash is all highly suggestive: the emergence of and into one's shame is inevitably one of 'unspeakable pain', as Charlie Macauley's is defined in Dottie's chapter. But characters also experience the resignation and pathos of having lived and living in shame. Much like My Name is Lucy Barton, the individual narrations emanate from compressed centres of embarrassment -- that which both perforates and secures the integrity and intactness of the Overall Story.

They must live with it, internalise if not counter it. For, surely, we are not to be reduced, to return to and be engulfed whole by that which we hail from? What about becoming? Does it all come down to mere-being? But what is being without the possibility of becoming?

Strout seems to advocate a calm intensity which comes to know itself in its ordinariness and endeavours to gain mastery and control over itself. What else would writing be or be doing, after all?
May 24, 2022
"The Barton family had been outcasts, even in a town like Amgash, their extreme poverty and strangeness making this so. The oldest child, a man named Pete, lived alone there now, the middle child was two towns away, and the youngest, Lucy Barton, had fled many years ago, and had ended up living in New York City."

Elizabeth Strout’s Anything Is Possible is a lovely collection of nine stories revolving around characters mentioned in her novel My Name is Lucy Barton. These interrelated stories are set in the small run-down town of Amgash, Illinois, Lucy Barton’s hometown. Though many of the characters have moved on from Amgash the events in their past have left an indelible mark on their lives and as they recall significant memories they are all taken back to their life in Amgash. Most of the characters will sound familiar on account of them being mentioned in the conversations between Lucy and her mother in the previous novel. Only one of the stories, Sister, features Lucy Barton and her siblings as the main characters but we get to know more about Lucy’s townspeople such as Vietnam War veteran Charlie Macauley ( The Hit-Thumb Theory), the Nicely family (Windmills) and the Mumford family( Mississippi Mary), her school janitor, Tommy Guptill ( The Sign), and her cousins, Abel Blaine (Gift) and Dottie (Dottie’s Bed and Breakfast. As we learn more about the lives, relationships, backstories and struggles of some of the past and present residents of Amgash, each of their stories contributes to a better understanding of Lucy Barton and her story.

Elizabeth Strout’s writing is elegant, her characters are real and relatable and her prose is beautiful and the narrative flows smoothly. The structure and style of this collection are similar to the author’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge. Though many of these stories are heartbreaking and revolve around unhappy moments and memories, touching upon themes such as poverty, parental neglect, PTSD, infidelity and trauma, the author writes with compassion and a great understanding of human emotions and complex relationships.

I strongly recommend reading My Name is Lucy Barton before this collection of stories to understand how and where these stories connect to Lucy and her story.
Profile Image for Kay ☼.
2,035 reviews770 followers
May 1, 2022
I wasn't excited with this one after a third in. I think maybe if I didn't like the first book, I shouldn't have attempted the second one? Going in, I thought after six years my taste in books may have changed, but it doesn't seem to be the case for Lucy Barton, and to be honest, I don't remember anybody if any were from the first book.

Many friends still have this on their TBR so please don't let my unfavorable review dissuade you from reading it.😿
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,648 followers
September 4, 2017
This book is a series of related short stories, linked to each other, but also linked through connections to Lucy Barton. Raised in extreme poverty, Lucy Barton manages to escape the confinement of her class through education, hard work, and most of all by leaving the environment of her origins. Whether the connection is direct or peripheral, the people in this book know Lucy Barton, or know of her, or know people who know people who knew Lucy Barton.

Through sadness, contentment, pain, joy, sorrow, serenity, tragedy, triumph, spitefulness, sincerity – through a kaleidoscope of human emotion, these are their stories.

At one point, a young girl in this book asks her brother to do something with her and he replies that he doesn’t have an appetite for it. I did have an appetite for this amazing nine-course meal, and voraciously consumed it all. Each course is a delicacy and savouring it made me want to eat only that. Yet when the plate was whisked away and the next course served, my appetite was focused entirely on that course. In the end, I felt I had been treated to one of the finest literary banquets I have been privileged to attend.

I recommend this book to anyone who has read “My Name is Lucy Barton” and/or to anyone who enjoys exceptionally well written stories about very real people living very real lives.
May 20, 2017
4.5 Stars

Anything is Possible is the sequel to My Name is Lucy Barton and is read as short stories. In these unforgettable wise, simple and gracefully told short stories we learn more of the siblings and neighbours known to us from My Name is Lucy Barton as they share gossip, judgement and their sadness and disappointments. I found My Name is Lucy Barton to be more of quieter story while Anything is Possible felt a bit louder with more things said as we learn the characters stories of disappointments. I found there is a gift here in these stories as I learned the wisdom and saw the forgiveness in the silence of things that were left unsaid.

These stunning short stories and characters reminded me that with a little kindness and compassion Anything is Possible. I highly recommend.

All of Norma’s & my reviews can be found on our Sister Blog:
Profile Image for Karen.
593 reviews1,197 followers
April 12, 2017
I loved My Name is Lucy Barton!
Anything is Possible, focuses on different characters, in each chapter, from Lucy's hometown of Amgash, Illinois. There is quite a lot of sadness and pain in these stories, but these characters and their situations were so well written, that I really felt like I knew them. I had a few favorites, and I am glad that Lucy made an appearance, and, the way the book ended, wow, what a way to go out!

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for an ARC!
Profile Image for Linda.
76 reviews176 followers
June 1, 2017
I read "My Name Is Lucy Barton" last year, which was my introduction to Elizabeth Strout's writing style. All I remember about that book were the feelings it provoked in me--unresolved feelings that were all too familiar with my own mother. I became so caught up in the strained relationship between Lucy and her mother and the hurt that had been festering all those years that I don't remember any of the people from Lucy's hometown who were mentioned. I only remember the small talk, taking the place of what so desperately needed to be said. I just wanted the two of them to heal all that pain.

"Anything Is Possible," is a journey back to Lucy's hometown and is a compilation of short stories pertaining to her family and neighbors. Strout has an amazing way of bringing every character alive. I was immediately involved with each one of them in such an intimate way. I wanted to know more and read more. I want to pick up that book right now and continue reading. Trying to describe this talented author's beautiful writing is impossible. It has to be experienced.

When I wonder how this book that is so simply constructed and easily read has left such an enormous impact on me, I'm reminded of my years studying dance. My instructor once told me that the easier you make your performance look, the more difficult it is to achieve.

Elizabeth Strout, you have become one of my top-five favorite authors, and "Anything Is Possible" deserves nothing less than five stars.

Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,156 followers
March 29, 2019
4.5 Stars

Oh. Boy. Elizabeth Strout does it again in this sequel to MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON. She takes a group of unexceptional folk and interweaves an exceptional group of short stories as we revisit the small impoverished town of Amgash, Illinois. We even get to have a sit-down with Lucy herself.....albeit a somewhat difficult one.

Bad times and sad times are in abundance here though with dysfunctional families and their dark personal secrets, but a couple characters actually brought a smile to my face, and one in particular (Dottie) made me laugh out loud! Wait till you see what she does.....

And even though troubled times abound throughout these stories of "imperfect love"...loss...and..."unspeakable pain"...there is (thankfully) peace and understanding for some in these connected tales of woe.....And. Oh. How. It. All. Ends.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,363 followers
April 23, 2017
I loved Elizabeth Strout's My Name Is Lucy Barton. It was a short tight novel about an author reflecting on her harsh childhood and adult life while lying in a hospital bed with her mother at her side. There was something about Lucy that really touched me. My expectations were therefore high for Everything Is Possible. It's a collection of connected stories that are also linked to My Name Is Lucy Barton -- stories about people from Lucy's childhood town, bringing a different perspective to Lucy's childhood and background. Stroud is an incredibly skilled writer. With few words, she creates nuanced characters, and gives them individuated personalities and vivid backstories. And she has a special talent for creating atmosphere -- skilfully moving through different moods and resonances. But with the exception of one story, I didn't love Everything Is Possible in the same way I loved My Name Is Lucy Barton. Don't get me wrong. I really liked many of the stories, but they didn't touch me in the same way as Lucy Barton. So not surprisingly the story I liked the most is the one featuring Lucy and her two siblings -- titled "Sister" -- in which Lucy comes to her home town for a visit. The collection as a whole is well worth reading, but if you love Lucy Barton as much as I did I suggest going in with tempered expectations so that the stories can be appreciated for what they are. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
350 reviews395 followers
April 5, 2017
I expect I'll be the odd one out on this book. While I see glowing accolates and many 4.5 and 5 star reviews, I just had a hard time connecting with it. I cannot put my finger on the exact reason. Strout's My Name Is Lucy Barton was extraordinary, and this book is written in a similar vein. Strout takes us to Lucy's hometown where we meet people from her past as well as her siblings. Every person is so completely *human* -- flawed, imperfect, and in this book, profoundly sad (perhaps that was my issue. Right book, wrong time. Perhaps I just couldn't handle the deep melancholy that pervades the book right now).

Strout is one of America's best living writers, but I found myself avoiding this book rather than savoring it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for a galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Iris P.
171 reviews206 followers
April 14, 2017
Anything Is Possible

★★★★★ 5 Convincing Stars!

“Sarah Payne, the day she told us to go to the page without judgment, reminded us that we never knew, and never would know, what it would be like to understand another person fully."

― Elizabeth Strout, My Name is Lucy Barton


I received a free advance e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

In My Name Is Lucy Barton, the critically acclaimed 2016 novel that is the prequel to this book, there's a scene where someone asks Lucy's mentor, Sarah Payne, what she thought of her role as a fiction writer. Her response was at once surprisingly simple and illuminating:

"Her job as a writer of fiction was to report on the human condition, she said, " to tell us who we are and what we think and what we do."

Elizabeth Strout has the rare gift of writing about the darkest of human emotions with empathy but also in a matter of factly, sobering kind of way. She leaves enough space to find a sense of hope and wonder at what we humans are able to overcome, but it is mostly up to the reader to arrive there.

The nine, loosely connected stories included in Anything Is Possible, can be perfectly appreciated on their own but I do believe reading My Name Is Lucy Barton first would add symmetry and provide a better context. In any case, perhaps because of the long-lasting impression the character Lucy Barton had on me, in my mind both these books are inevitably intertwined.

My Name Is Lucy Barton focuses on a writer raised in extreme poverty as part of a very dysfunctional family. Her mother, whom she hasn't seen in years, comes to visit as she recovers from complications after a simple surgery. They exchanged gossip and reminisce about Lucy's childhood and the people she grew up with in the rural town of Amgash, Illinois.

Anything Is Possible offers a peek into the life of some of those characters and, for those of us who felt in love with Lucy, Strout provides additional pieces of the puzzle allowing us to get a much complete picture of who she is, of the other members of her family and the community and the people that, for good or bad, played a role in her upbringing.

I enjoyed most of the stories but here are a few favorites:

In Windmills , Patty Nicely is working as a high school guidance counselor. She finds herself trying to encourage Lila (Lucy's niece) to pursue a higher education. After Lila viciously insults Patty by telling her that she's known as "Fatty Patty" among her peers, things get a little complicated.

Cracked features Patty's sister Linda. Linda's husband is a rapist whose latest victim might prove to be his last. Even with a creepy character and a disturbing storyline, this story was compulsive reading for me.

Sister, features Lucy, now an established author, as she decides to go back home to visit her estranged siblings Peter and Kathy, which she hasn't seen in more than 17 years. This story is complex and wonderfully captures the intricate dynamics of siblinghood. Sometimes your siblings can at once be your harshest critics and your most loyal allies.

Gift , the last story, opens as Abel Blaine an older, successful businessman, gets delayed at a company meeting as he's scheduled to attend a performance of A Christmas Carol with his family. After his granddaughter forgets her favorite toy, he goes back to the theater to try to find it. A chance encounter with a disturbed actor will change his life forever.

There are recurrent themes, including the struggles of the white working class and the long-lasting effects of experiencing physical and emotional neglect. We also witness how envy and resentment can throw people's lives into a spiral of misery and hopelessness.

Perhaps you would be hard-pressed to find grandstanding epiphanies or memorable quotes here, but by pulling the curtain and giving us a glimpse into the lives of these deeply flawed characters, Strout shows how sometimes we are so wrapped up in our own lives that we failed to see how others might have endured more hardships and adversity than we ever have.

And so, if the ultimate goal of a fictional writer is to chronicle the human condition, Strout is, in the view of many, a master at accomplishing this. And I love that she seems to go out of her way to avoid passing judgment or conversely, to vouch for the character of her characters. At the end, she trusts her readers to figure out what the moral of the story is.

A very rewarding reading experience, highly recommended!
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