Cover Image: Lucy by the Sea

Lucy by the Sea

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This book is so hard for me review — on the one hand, Elizabeth Strout is my favorite author. Her writing is the epitome of perfection. It is the perfect balance between readable, beautiful, and thoughtful. On the other hand, and what made this book hard for me, this book takes the reader through the current events of the last two years, which having lived through, I wasn’t super excited to read about. Much of the joy of reading for me is escapism from the 24 hour news cycle. The parts of this book that I loved were the “backstories.” It’s these same style stories that make My Name is Lucy Barton a masterpiece (and one of my top 5 favorite books of all time). In order to really maximize the reading experience of this book, the reader should start with My Name is Lucy Barton, then Anything is Possible, Oh William!, and finally Lucy by the Sea.
Was this review helpful?
It is the early spring of 2020 and the whole world is about to shut down.  Lucy Barton, a recent widow and a long-time resident of New York City, is on the verge of being stranded in a quarantined city until her first husband William convinces her to move with him to coastal Maine to ride out the Covid storm.  There she begins her fish-out-of-water existence as a stranger in a place where she is not always welcome while also struggling to keep her family life together and resume her writing career.  As the months pass, life does bring her some joys along with the many hardships, such as her budding friendship with Bob Burgess, a long-standing member of the community and someone William has known for many years.

Lucy by the Sea is author Elizabeth Strout’s fourth novel to feature what is perhaps her most beloved character.  It is a very introspective story in which not much of consequence happens, but then that is really the point given the focus on the social isolation that the pandemic imposed on us all for so long.  At the heart of the tale is the way in which Lucy addresses the grief of the recent loss of her second husband David, as well as the way she continues to reconnect with William and forgive him for his many past transgressions.  If there is anything amounting to dramatic tension in the book, it comes from Lucy’s adult daughters, Chrissy and Becka, whose personal lives are a bit of a mess at the moment.  

While the story falls a little short of being captivating, Strout’s writing is uniformly superb and her deep understanding of what makes Lucy tick is marvelous.  This is an author who seems to be at the top of her game when it comes to insights into what makes us human and there is an admirable confidence about the way she allows Lucy’s inherent vulnerability to show through.  She is even a little playful at times: there is a great line in which Becka quotes her failed poet husband in his attempt to insult Lucy by saying “He thought you were just an older white woman writing about older white women”.  Of course, Strout could have been pointing at herself there, which is just one of the small surprises contained throughout this thoughtful volume.
Was this review helpful?
There’s a scene in this novel where Lucy  Barton is sitting in a car at a gas station and watches a policeman sitting in a cruiser. She wonders “what is it like to be a policeman…What is it like to be you? I need to say: This is the question that has made me a writer; always that deep desire to know what it feels like to be a different person.” While Lucy is a fictional character, I can’t help but think that Elizabeth Strout might feel the same. And if she does, she certainly is successful in letting the reader know what it might be like to be a different person. I couldn’t help but think that’s why reading is such a satisfying experience “to know what it feels like to be a different person. “

For the last couple of years I’ve avoided books that focus on pandemics, Covid or otherwise. Then Strout’s newest book about Lucy Barton comes along and the time frame is during the pandemic. I couldn’t resist a new book by her and definitely not one about Lucy Barton. I’ve connected with Lucy in all of the books about her, not because I shared her unique experiences, but because Lucy, as in the previous books, is introspective and so honest. Throughout the story it felt as if I was listening to an old friend.

There are, though, shared experiences as she grapples with the pandemic and her lockdown with her ex husband William in Maine, bringing to my mind, my own experience. It’s about her lockdown with her ex husband William and their relationship, but also about her grief, her life in New York before the pandemic, her regrets, her reflections of the past, which still haunt. The past is always present in Lucy’s memories of her mother, father and siblings as is her desire in the present over her relationship with her daughters- not wanting it to be like her relationship with her mother.

I saw an older, more wiser, but maybe a more vulnerable Lucy, but still Lucy, and one of my favorite characters. Strout has lovingly brought back Bob Burgess, from a previous novel and a few mentions of another Strout character I love, which was a great surprise. (No spoiler. You should be surprised as well if you read this). What wasn’t a surprise was Stout’s brilliant story telling. 

I received a copy of this book from Random House through NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to the publisher and author for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. The opinions contained in this review are my own.
For Elizabeth Strout fans, this book will not disappoint. It is classic Strout writing and storytelling. Stout continues on with her ex-husband and their children as the characters. She looks at how the pandemic and things such as George Floyd have affected the world and how we see it. It makes you stop and think about the world. . Great book and very timely subjects..
Was this review helpful?
Writing: 4.5/5 Plot: 4/5 Characters: 4.5/5

This third chapter in the Lucy Barton series (I am Lucy Barton and Oh William!) might alternately be titled Lucy gets through the Covid Pandemic as it extends from just before Covid slams into New York City and continues through the availability of vaccines.  Lucy and her first husband, William (the parasitologist), head to Maine for what (very) naive Lucy is told will just be a few weeks to escape the ravages of Covid.  William is — very simply — trying to save her life.  

I’m a huge Strout fan and have read most or all of her books — I love her clean, clear writing and insight into personal experience.   I did find this book a little more preachy than previous novels to the point where I liked the main character much less than I did previously.  This is largely because the book took on political topics (Covid, George Floyd, the Capitol Riots) and manipulated the story to show how very correct her side of the political spectrum was in every case (the Capitol Rioters were all nazis and racists but the George Floyd riots were all peaceful; everyone in her book who did not adhere to strict covid protocols were rashly stupid and were all punished by death or hospitalization, etc.).  While worrying about the state of democracy and bemoaning child labor in foreign countries, she has access to lots of money, and while befriending people with very different beliefs and professing love for her born again sister,  she comes off as feeling superior to them.  Of course, it is Lucy’s story and to be fair, the author does let some characters blast Lucy for just that!  She even has Lucy (a writer) write stories about people very unlike herself so … overall I enjoyed the book, and it gave me a lot to think about  (I think I’m still just sensitive to the many sanctimonious people I weathered Covid with, some of whom called me a “grandma killer” when I went out to run on deserted streets).
Was this review helpful?
“This is the question that made me a writer; always that deep desire to know what it feels like to be a different person.”

Reading writers who see us, who know us ordinary but complex individuals is such an emotional salve of an experience to me. Oh, what a gift this ARC was. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Random house for this re-visit of an author I have read before and for whose book I rated five stars but somehow never delved into her others.

Lucy Strout’s writing is like having a magical connection with another human - so very rare and so thrilling when in life we find another who sees with precision our humanity in all of its magical detail of mundanity. 

I also am a voracious seeker of books covering the minutia of daily coping during the pandemic. Lucy Strout took me back to my own muddling perceptions of early Covid days, and I loved the solidarity she made me feel about the memories.

I shall now read everything else this author wrote!

Five stars.
Was this review helpful?
*Not enough time has passed for me to want to live through the daily mind-numbing routines & horrors of the pandemic so this might have soured this book for me somewhat. That being said, it speaks to how well the author captured what was a collective feeling of dread and despair as a society all the way own to one single family unit. I was very interested to see some of the changes and growth in Lucy, William and family & the author's unique style of writing is always enjoyable to read. I have loved Lucy Barton from the start and this book helped complete Lucy's personal family story. If you are a fan of Lucy Barton you will want to read this (final?) book with the understanding that it will make you feel like re-living the early stages of the covid pandemic all over again.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Netgalley. While reading this book, I experienced so many different feelings, including the displacement of lives during the beginning of the pandemic when no one knew what was going on or what would happen. Even Olive Kittredge makes a cameo appearance. I realized while reading this book that it helped to have read Strout's other books because in this book a community is forming. I hope Lucy returns again. She is a woman who doesn't know her own mind and stays open to see what will happen next. She lets herself not know things and be okay with that. She leaves NYC to go to Maine with William and is still a year away from the death of her second husband. So much happens in Maine where she spends the pandemic. Both William and she go through a lot with their grown children and that is where the emotional core lies.
Was this review helpful?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The topic was timely in that it was about isolating from New York City at the beginning of the pandemic. Lucy didn't understand the seriousness of the virus but her ex-husband did and he insisted that she come with him to a village in Maine, where they rented an old house from a friend of his. The story covers the first year of the pandemic - the changes Lucy and her family made - and all the changes in their world. Reading the book was like talking to a friend about how she was dealing with the isolation, the different climate, the difficulties her daughters were facing, the deaths in her friend and family circles, her new relationship with her ex-husband. So much of it I could relate to and understand. 
Strout touched on a number of political events in the US - George Floyd, BLM protests, rioting and burning in US cities, the 2020 election, the Washington riot - but she had Lucy avert her eyes from the things she couldn't deal with. She spent more time on the events and people closer to her, which I think most people would do. 
I look forward to reading more of Elizabeth Strout's writing.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book. The opinions expressed are my own and I was not compensated for writing this review.
Was this review helpful?
"Oh Lucy, come on. I sit here and think over my life, and I think, Who have I been? I have been an idiot." 

"In what way?" I asked him.

Oh Lucy!  Such a wonderfully told story, like falling back in love with someone you knew and held dearly in the past.  The familiar way you fit into one another.  Know the other's likes and dislikes.  That's how Lucy is to me.  Of course William will protect, care for her and ultimately love her.  When pandemic comes very close to home in NYC they are there for one another.  Just as it should be!
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book so much. It can be difficult to read about the pandemic while still reeling from it, but this book didn't make me anxious. It was like listening to an old friend talk about their experience. I love Strout so much.
Was this review helpful?
Lucy By The Sea is 'quintessential Lucy Barton!  I felt as if I was reading Lucy's personal journal.  It took me back to the early days of the pandemic and was both heartbreaking and touching, as Lucy's story often seems to be.  It seemed so 'real' in capturing the emotions of the moment that I felt like I was back in that time again.  I was sad when the book ended.  I didn't want the story to be over, and I hope Strout keeps writing about Lucy (and Olive)!
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout.  Strout made it oddly comforting to be reading about the pandemic and Lucy's experience with it. All around me people want to forget and erase but this book bares witness to this event in a way that I could identify with, while also showing me the plights of some others who were worse off. It was real, but still accessible. It wasn't comprehensive -- I don't know if I could have handled that but it was authentic. I couldn't put it down.
Was this review helpful?
I feel like I know Lucy Barton well, and going through Covid with Lucy allowed me to know her better. Again, Strout has written a beautiful novel about Lucy and her family. Dealing with Covid, William and her children during the time of this horrible pandemic, I understood the feelings that Lucy had. I especially understood her sense of disconnection from her children.. Zoom and FaceTime did not fulfill our need for human contact. 

I also understood her relationship to her ex-husband William. During this time of strife, it was understandable, but I’m waiting for my next visit with Lucy to peer into their future. 

One of my favorite things about Strout’s writing is her ability to allow her faithful fans to check-in on past characters. I appreciated hearing about Olive, and so sad about Isabelle. Since Bob Burgess was a major character in this novel, I felt comforted by the update on his life and family. 

Elizabeth Strout is a very special author, whose ability to write with amazing authenticity makes each of her novels a masterpiece. I cannot wait for the next and I have to hope Strout continues to write about my “friend” Lucy. 

Thank you Netgalley for this very special ARC.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely adore Elizabeth Strout.

"I have always wanted my books to help people. But in truth, I have no sense that they do. Even if someone writes to me and says, Your books have helped me—while I am always glad to get the note—I have never really been able to believe it. I mean, praise seems unable to enter me."

I've loved every Lucy Barton book with increasing depth and closeness. There are so many sentiments in this lovely story that resonated with me. I love the simple and yet layered way she writes her stories. The quietness makes it speak that much louder for me.

"Everyone needs to feel important. I thought again about how my mother—my real one—had said this to me one day. And she was absolutely right. Everyone has to feel like they matter. I did not feel that I mattered. Because in a way I have never been able to feel that. And so the days were hard."

This is the first fictional story I read that takes place solely during the pandemic. Lucy moves to Maine  with her ex-husband William and the story unfolds from there. It's about the pandemic. It's about being a family, a mother, a wife, a New Yorker and so much more. 

If you've liked Strout before, I am confident you will love this one.

with gratitude to netgalley and Random House for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I have read a number of Elizabeth Strout's book and this one is by far my favorite. It is definitely a novel of the pandemic and I found it such a wonderful remember of all of the emotions of that time. The character of Lucy is deep and growing and I really appreciated that. I found the story within the story a great look into the life of the writer. I can't wait for the rest of the world to read this installment in the Strout world. It is excellent!
Was this review helpful?
Was this my first real pandemic book? Maybe second? It will be nice to have this snapshot of this time to go back to someday. Enjoyed seeing the continued life of these charcaters.
Was this review helpful?
Oh, Lucy Barton, how I do love reading your story. Following the previous installments, but especially last year's  "Oh William", we have now found Lucy just at the start of the pandemic & she is being whisked from NYC to Maine to live in isolation with her friend & ex-spouse, William (a scientist).  I thought I might not enjoy this one, as like so many others I am pretty burned out on the subject, but I did really enjoy reading about it through Lucy's journey with William, including so many other events of the very recent collective & traumatic past.  One of my favorite things about this shorter novel were the "Easter Eggs" that author Elizabeth Strout sprinkled in to her other literary characters (IYKYK).  VERY HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!  My sincere thanks to Net Galley & the publisher for the complimentary DRC, the exchange of which did not affect my review.
Was this review helpful?
Set during the first year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lucy by the Sea was like opening a lid on a time I had locked away. Lucy Barton, one of Strout’s regular heroines, is whisked away to Maine when the rumblings of the pandemic start, by her ex-husband William, who had a stronger understanding of what was going on. Lucy feels foggy and strange, unable to focus and glued to the news (remember that?). They begin to make the most of their time in Maine, enjoying it, and learning to embrace their new life, while keeping in touch with their daughters and their evolutions during the lockdown and quarantines. 

This was familiar in an uncomfortable. Strout nails the feeling of the pandemic through Lucy’s angst and wandering. Less strong was the inclusion of the various world events during the pandemic. It was odd, to have so many things reflected back when we’re not that far from them, but it was also one of the better post-acute pandemic ruminations on What Happened.
Was this review helpful?
Yet another quietly moving and vastly entertaining masterpiece by the always astonishing author Elizabeth Strout. Having loved My Name is Lucy Barton and Oh, William! I was prepared to be wowed again. And boy was I. This novel about two ex spouses escaping New York City during COVID and decamping to a seaside cliff in Maine is absolutely mesmerizing. I loved these characters. I want these characters to be in all novels written by everyone. Thank you Net Galley and Penguin Random House. Brava a thousand times.
Was this review helpful?