Very affecting early COVID novel about the abruptness of departure from normal life during an epidemic, and the inexplicable isolation that follows.
I really enjoyed this book, no doubt Elizabeth Strout is a brilliant passionate writer. I wasn’t sure I was ready to read a pandemic book but she does such a great job and the characters really capture your interest.
I tried multiple times to read this book but I couldn't get into it. I was so excited because everyone is talking about it but it just wasn't for me.
Lucy by the Sea wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't for me. I found myself skimming a lot of parts because it was pretty slow. I also didn't realize this was a book from a series. I think I would have enjoyed it much more if I had read the others and had a better connection to the characters.
First let me start off with I have read other books by Elizabeth Strout and love them. However, I had difficulty connecting with this one. It read more like someone’s personal journal written during the COVID lockdown.
Thank you #NetGalley, #PenguinRandomHouse, #ElizabethSrout and #LucybytheSea for the novel for my honest review.
Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout was a book I wasn't even sure I wanted to read. I have read other pandemic books and was sure Strout couldn't capture what I was looking for. I wasn't sure I could be entertained by a divorced couple forced to live together in Maine. But I gave it a shot. Chapter one turned into 10. I found my self wondering what Lucy and William were up to as I settled back down to read another few chapters. Lucy by the Sea read more like a memoir to me than a fictional story. I was intrigued from chapter one on. Strout captured exactly how we were all feeling during the pandemic; the uncertainty, death, fear, isolation, and family. It all brought back so many memories to me. Strout also had some very wise advise throw into the story, I loved hearing about Lucy and William's day to day lives. It didn't even dawn on me that I knew Lucy and William from Strout's previous work, Oh William. I now need to go back and see where the Lucy story begins.
Special thanks to NetGalley, Lucy Strout, and Random House Publishing Group for the advanced digital copy in exchange for my honest opinion. 5 stars for me.
I really struggled to get through this book, but there is *something* about Lucy and this Amgash series that just manages to stick with me long after I’ve read it. This review is months delayed (sorry!) but I think I would have rated it lower had I reviewed it right away. Did I love this book? No. Would I read another book about Lucy and Amgash? Yes, absolutely. 100% Can I put my finger on why? Not really-but I can tell you it REALLY makes me think about every interaction and relationship I have, so Elizabeth Strout is doing something right.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! No spoilers. Beyond amazing I enjoyed this book so very much. The characters and storyline were fantastic. The ending I did not see coming Could not put down nor did I want to. Truly Amazing and appreciated the whole story. This is going to be a must read for many many readers. Maybe even a book club pick.
I enjoy Elizabeth Strout's writing and I really like the character of Lucy. I started reading this latest book featuring Lucy and went in blind. I had no idea that the story took place during the pandemic. I don't think I properly prepared myself.
I think we gravitate towards Lucy because she speaks plainly and it feels as if you're just listening to a friend.
Strout deftly captured the feelings of the world, I think, when she write about the first stages of the lock-down in this book. But there really isn't much of a story here. I normally enjoy the simplistic writing style and Lucy's mannerisms but here, she and William (her ex-husband) come across as a bit pretentious and privileged.
The events of the book are poignant as we have all been there, but I just didn't enjoy this as much as the previous Lucy books.
This is the fourth Lucy Barton novel I have read, and I have enjoyed all of them for the beautifully written, character-driven stories. At the start of the Covid 19 pandemic Lucy is taken from New York City to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband William to keep her safe. During isolation she reflects on past regrets, grief, fear, and her connections with her family.
New York Times bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout brings back Lucy Barton, the enduring character she introduced in My Name is Lucy Barton. She appeared again in Anything Is Possible and Oh William!, the book she had barely completed when the COVID-19 pandemic began. “Lucy and William were just so much in my head. I thought: OK, let’s have him take her up to the coast of Maine, and stick them on this cliff and see what happens,” Strout says. She emphasizes that making the setting different than that of Oh William! was a specific choice. In Oh William!, they are in a more northern, inland part of Maine. In Lucy by the Sea, they are “literally by the sea which is a very different sort of vibe. . . . I pictured them at the end of a point high up on a cliff in a house. And there they are.” The two novels “work together,” she adds. “I see them as a continuation of each other,” even though Strout never intended to write a series of books featuring the same characters. “But these people are so real to me that I keep wanting to write about them in their new situations or where they might be now, so I just keep going back to them.”
Strout and her fictional heroine have a great deal in common. They are the same age, Lucy is also a novelist, and they have both been married twice. Strout has an adult daughter (while Lucy has two, Chrissy and Becka). It’s a case of art imitating life as Strout and her husband permanently relocated from Manhattan to Brunswick, Maine, during the pandemic. “We share many traits, but I’m not her,” Strout stresses, adding that she really doesn’t care about what people think, “so if people think that, that’s fine. But it is not true.”
Once again, the story is related in Lucy’s distinctive voice. In typical Lucy style, the narrative is somewhat disjointed, repetitive, stuttering, and awkward. But it is also honest, raw, and deeply insightful. The novel is crafted much like a series of diary entries, with Lucy, now sixty-six years old, relating what happens to her and her seventy-two-year-old ex-husband, William Gerhardt. He is a parasitologist to whom she was married for twenty years, but they have been divorced for nearly as long. In the interim, Lucy was happily married to David, a cellist, who died, and William has been married and divorced twice, most recently from his much younger third wife, Estelle, with whom he has a daughter, Bridget. In Oh William!, they journeyed together to Maine after William discovered via an ancestry website that he had a half-sister, Lois Bubar, residing there. William also learned that his mother’s life had actually been much different than he had been led to believe. Although Lucy met Lois, William’s half-sister had no desire to meet or interact with him. Two months after they returned from Maine, Lucy agreed to travel to Grand Cayman with William, believing that he “must have been plunged into some sort of midlife crisis, or older man crisis,” considering all that he had recently been through — divorce, Estelle taking ten-year-old Bridget to live with her, and being rejected by Lois. After their three-day vacation, they returned to New York and Lucy embarked on a book tour to promote her new novel.
But she disappointed her publisher by canceling a trip to Italy and Germany that was scheduled in early March 2020. Which is when William begs their daughters, Chrissy and Becka, to leave their Brooklyn homes, and convinces Lucy to return with him to the little town of Crosby on the coast of Maine where he has rented a house from Bob Burgess, the ex-husband of the woman with whom William had an on-again, off-again affair for years while married to Lucy. Lucy relates that she, unlike her scientist ex-husband, was unable to predict what the world was on the precipice of experiencing and reluctant to leave the city. She packed only a few things, thinking she would be spending just a couple of weeks in Maine, returning to New York City when things improved. At the outset, readers will identify with Lucy’s bewilderment, confusion, and naivete about the potential severity and length of the pandemic that was just beginning. “I did not know that I would never see my apartment again. I did not know that one of my friends and a family member would die of this virus. I did not know that my relationship with my daughters would change in ways I could never have anticipated. I did not know that my entire life would become something new.”
The book details the events that unfold as the world goes into lockdown, the virus claims lives, teleworking becomes the norm for millions, and isolation takes a heavy toll on relationships. Chrissy and her husband, Michael, an asthmatic, escape to his parents’ Connecticut home (they are staying in Florida), but Becka, a social worker, and her husband, Trey, an adjunct professor of poetry at New York University, opt to remain in Brooklyn. Both end up working at home.
Lucy shares her innermost thoughts and feelings as she and William settle into a house she does not like in a place that she deems far too cold. She is restless and has trouble concentrating, so finds herself unable to read books or write. She naps every afternoon and feels disoriented when she awakens. She and William spend a lot of time taking walks — separately and together – because there is little else for them to do in that remote location while completely isolated. They also become addicted to watching the news to hear about the latest developments. But like so many people, Lucy is unable to fully comprehend what is happening, even as the Surgeon General issues dire warnings and Broadway goes dark. Not all locals welcome New Yorkers, which frightens Lucy.
Lucy describes having always felt invisible in the world and the ways in which living in isolation with William exacerbates her anxiety, especially her worry that her daughters might catch the virus and not survive. But she develops a close friendship with Bob Burgess, who is now married to Margaret, a minister. They take frequent walks together and have meaningful conversations. Lucy is flattered to learn that he has read her book and heartened to realize that he truly understood it. She feels seen which is so important to her. His company eases the loneliness she feels, particularly since William often seems distant, not really listening to her. She especially misses David who seems “even more gone to me somehow.” She does not speak of mourning David because William likes to fix things, but “grief is a private thing.” Lucy understands that grieving is a solitary experience that must be endured alone.
Gradually, Lucy comes to see that “William had been right to bring me up here,” and they fall into a comfortable routine that includes enjoying meals that William prepares, taking drives, and hours-long conversations. And hear about the challenges Chrissy and Becka face from afar, unable to be with them in person to lend support. Lucy misses her daughters viscerally, sometimes feeling abandoned and convinced that Becka, in particular, is avoiding her. But she’s grateful for William’s ingenuity and resourcefulness as he finds ways to assist their daughters remotely.
William reveals life events that he has not previously shared with Lucy or their daughters. They grow closer, referring to each other by the nicknames they used when married — she is “Button” and he is “Pillie” — but William still gets on Lucy’s nerves from time to time. She is genuinely touched when he tells her, with great emotion, “Lucy, yours is the life I wanted to save. My own life I care very little about these days, except I know the girls still depend on me, especially Bridget; she is still just a kid. But, Lucy, if you should die from this, it would . . . I only wanted to save your life.” And Lucy rejoices with William when a disappointing situation happily resolves and is pleased that he finds new work to do in conjunction with the local university.
Still, as the days and months drag on, Lucy does not know exactly how she feels about William, even though she observes that, at times, “I am not unhappy.” For her, it is “weird to be with William — except that it wasn’t always weird” as they live together in a sort of limbo, wondering when they might be able to return to New York and how long it will be until things get better. In the summer, they watch news accounts of George Floyd’s murder and worry about the protests taking place around the country. People they love get the virus and some survive, while others do not. Lucy suffers physical symptoms of stress, but eventually begins venturing out a bit more, which helps her state of mind. The Presidential election takes place in November 2020, they watch in horror as the U.S. Capitol comes under attack on January 6, 2021. (“There was deep, deep unrest in the country and the whisperings of a civil war seemed to move around me like a breeze I could not quite feel but could sense.”) At last, the COVID vaccine becomes available in early 2021. Strout effectively demonstrates the various ways in which external happenings penetrate the metaphorical cocoon to which Lucy and William have retreated, and the ways world events intrude upon and impact Lucy’s already fragile psyche.
As the world slowly begins returning to some semblance of normalcy, Lucy makes momentous decisions and is surprised by the choices William makes. Lucy continues engaging in introspection about their lives and everything that led to their being in isolation together in that quaint house on the Maine coast.
Lucy by the Sea is another rich meditation on relationships, family, the impact of isolation, and importance of connectedness. Strout again brings Lucy and William to life with seemingly effortlessness, imbuing everyday occurrences with symbolism and meaning. Her writing is deceptively simple and sneakily impactful. She examines the ways in which their relationship endures over time, despite the pain they have inflicted on each other through the years. Strout also illustrates their daughters’ reactions to their parents spending time together and the evolution of their long relationship, as Chrissy and Becka endure their own life-altering traumas. In Lucy by the Sea, both daughters are now fully grown young women living their own lives, and Strout deftly shows both the ways in which the pandemic effects their lives and Lucy’s coming to understand fully that her children are now adults who “want to be heard” and design their lives on their own terms.
Strout says she sought to illustrate that during the pandemic lockdowns, “there was no time, all the days just melded into one. I was trying to get that sense of disorientation on to the page.” Although she maintains that was the hardest part of writing the book, she succeeds beautifully. Lucy by the Sea proceeds at a steady pace yet feels a bit untethered and meandering, just as life felt during that surreal era because of both the pandemic and the growing divisions among U.S. citizens. When Lucy finally finds inspiration for a new book and resumes writing, she worries that her story cannot be published because of the subject matter and the ideology of her main character. For Strout, that is “a real commentary on the times that we’re living in.”
Strout observes that Lucy is now, like her daughters, fully grown up. And she at last realizes that she is, like her daughters, being fully heard. She asks herself questions and contemplates issues that she would not have had the maturity to address previously. Strout says that was not a conscious choice on her part. “I am trying every second that I’m writing to be inside Lucy’s head. . . . I concentrate as deeply as I can to think, ‘What is it like to be Lucy right now?’” And Lucy continuously surprised her as she was penning the novel.
Once again, Strout has crafted a straight-forward, but deeply affecting, contemplative story featuring beloved characters whose decisions and choices will be as surprising to readers as they were to Strout as they appeared on the pages. Lucy by the Sea is poignant, thought-provoking, and relatable on numerous levels. It is another masterfully crafted novel from one of America’s best storytellers.
After starting Lucy At The Sea, I understood why I delayed reading it. I felt like I was reading Lucy’s (or Strout’s )journal. Her private diary was being aired in these pages of her anxiety, fear, alertness and panic during the pandemic of 2020. This is my third read where politics and opinions and perhaps propaganda is brought in with the lockdown. I read for pleasure and want awed, spooked, thrilled, chocked up etc, not reliving what was on news 24/7 in NY. Unfortunately, this story is all about 2020. Not my interest. Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group.
I went into this book completely blind and I'm so glad I did. Had I known the COVID pandemic would be a key player, in a way a character in the book itself, I might not have read it. I'm so glad I did. Lucy was a fascinating character to me, her inner dialogue, her observations, relationships with others, especially her daughters....she was so simple yet so complex. I enjoyed "living through" the early stages of the pandemic again through her eyes. Very cool to see Olive Kitterigde mentioned a few times in this one, too! I totally recommend for folks who enjoy a slow burn character driven story. I was pleasantly surprised by this one!
Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read in exchange for my honest review!
Of all the Lucy books in this series, this was my least favorite. Lucy and her ex-husband are riding out the pandemic together in a charming little house by the sea (it would've been nice to have the means to do that in reality!). The book felt a little melodramatic and slow but a nice conclusion to the series (I'm assuming that will be the last in the Amgash series?). The girls are grown and seem to be thriving after a few bumps in the road and William and Lucy are comfortable growing old together.
This an emotional read set during the pandemic. This book showed how the pandemic affected the world. The characters were well developed.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book. My opinions are my own.
I loved this! It was Lucy’s viewpoint of her relationship with her husband, her relationship with her ex husband, and her relationship with her daughters. Of 2020 when everyone first went into lockdown. I loved her musings and her honesty about herself and those around her.
I received an egalley of this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley (Thank you!).
I have said before in past reviews that I would read Elizabeth Strout's musings as she watched paint dry. In some ways, she put my statement to the test in this novel. This is a pandemic story in the most direct sense of the word - the main character Lucy and her ex-husband William escape New York City to a house on the coast of Maine in an effort to stay healthy during the pandemic. The novel goes through her thoughts on the pandemic and her children as she worries about them from a distance.
I would definitely not recommend this book to anyone averse to pandemic reading. Even for me, it was a bit of a slog. as it's not something triggering to me but still not something I care to revisit. The politics of 2020 are also mentioned, although briefly and not with much of a position (though it's obvious who Lucy and her husband voted for).
What I find fascinating about this book is the line between memoir and fiction. It's clear Strout draws on much of her own life experiences to tell the story. For awhile, I really thought it was simply a memoir, but evidently, it is not.
At the end of the day, fans of Strout and her series about Lucy Barton will want to pick his up and enjoy another missive from her. I would hesitate to recommend to any new readers.
I WILL be reading more by Elizabeth Strout, however Lucy by the Sea just did not capture my attention. Perhaps it was the setting of lockdown due to Covid, but I just could not stay with this story,
Thank you NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review this book.
I wish I'd seen that I was approved for this one, I really wanted to read it! It is no longer available for download.
A novel set during the pandemic is just not a great idea right now, if you ask me. None of us want to re-live the last three years, we were all there. No, we didn’t all have the same experience, but social media made it so that we knew all these different versions. Despite this, I just adore Elizabeth Strout’s writing so much. I can’t just give it two stars, which is what I would do if it weren’t for her recognizable voice in the book.