Cover Image: Lucy by the Sea

Lucy by the Sea

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Member Reviews

Everyone who reads Elizabeth Strout knows there is something very special about her writing, her ability to communicate and to draw you into her story. Nothing is outrageous, nothing is over the top - just simple yet profound feelings, thoughts and situations.

“Privately staggered by grief” and realizing that “grief is a private thing- a solitary matter” - what could be more simple yet more profound?! Recognizing panic, knowing that being homesick doesn’t necessarily relate to home. The simplicity of a hot water bottle bringing comfort and deprivation - she tells us so much - just lays it all out for us to feel, absorb, relate. 

I was unsure of whether I wanted or needed to read another Covid lock-down, January 6th uprising story - I understood her need to insert her opinions and incorporate them into this story - it neither added nor detracted from my reaction to this book. Thank you Random House and NetGalley for a copy.
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Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout was the fourth book in her Amgash series. Elizabeth Strout brought all the characters that we have come to love, admire and know so well together again just as Covid-19 showed up unannounced. William, Lucy’s first husband, was intent on getting Lucy out of New York City as Covid began to show its ugly and scary presence around the city. He knew that things would only get worse. William wanted to protect Lucy from the virus. He told Lucy to pack a bag and be ready to go to Maine. A friend of William’s had access to a house that William and Lucy could rent. It was on the coast of Maine. Lucy reluctantly agreed to leave New York City with William and go to Maine. She assumed that they would be back in two or three weeks. What actually transpired in Maine, to herself, to William and to her and William was so beyond anything that Lucy could have ever predicted or imagined.

Elizabeth Strout skillfully brought the struggles of isolation, social distancing and mask wearing into the day to day life Lucy was living in Maine with William. Sadly, Lucy experienced the loss of some of her friends and love ones to the virus. There was lots of hand washing, long walks both alone and with friends and frustrating trips to the supermarket only to find empty shelves or limits imposed on quantities of certain items to be purchased. Bob Burgess was brought back and became a good friend of Lucy’s. He became a trusted confidant of Lucy’s. Lucy came to really enjoy his company and looked forward to the time they spent together. Olive Kitteridge, another familiar character, was mentioned as a patient in an assisted living facility. Lucy’s and William’s daughters did not escape Covid-19 without complications and some drama. Dealing with the problems of their married daughters long distance was not easy for Lucy. She missed her daughters very much. During her time in Maine, Lucy also came to understand herself better. She discovered things about herself that she had not recognized before she got to Maine. With so much time on her hands, she was able to contemplate these things. All the free time, seclusion and the acquaintance of new friends made it easier for Lucy to make these self discoveries. Lucy’s and William’s journey through Covid-19 was familiar and yet unique to them. How would Lucy and William fair under the anxiety, fear and unknowns of the virus, the political unrest the country was experiencing and from living together in such close proximity to each other in the house they rented in Maine?

I really enjoyed Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout. It was written in the first person narrative. Lucy used her voice in a very convincing way to tell this story. I found it to be uplifting and endearing. It was also sad at certain points. I could feel the frustration the characters felt, the fear of the unknown and the anxiety they felt as well. It brought back so many feelings I experienced during this trying and scary time. It was well written and plotted. I have come to look forward to reading the books Elizabeth Strout writes. I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Random House Publishing for allowing me to read Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Delighted to include this title in the September instalment of Novel Encounters, my regular column highlighting the month’s most anticipated fiction for the Books section of Zoomer magazine. (see column and mini-review at link)
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It's nice to follow along with the cast of characters we have grown to love through Elizabeth Strout's book Lucy by the Sea.  It's hard to describe this author's writings - I call it heavy character development and light on plot, but other critics call her the best observer of human behavior who interweaves short stories and essays and they're lovely books to read.  This is my 2nd Lucy Barton book, and I didn't read them in order, but I still aspire to go back and read the first two Lucy Barton books! 

Lucy by the Sea is set during the Coronavirus Pandemic, where Lucy and William have fled the city to quarantine themselves from the urban setting.  It did not disappoint and I adore the audiobook narrator Kimberly Farr!
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I don't think this is a good book to start with if you haven't read the earlier ones. I also feel like since the pandemic is still raging, this book felt sort of dated already because it is framed around the early days of lockdowns but seems to think that things are better in the place and time would be reading about it. Things are not better and if anything they are worse. Is the next book going to deal with this too? I feel like the book was too soon.
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Elizabeth Strout has a unique gift for sharing the intimate on the page; the private moments when we are stripped of artifice, acting authentically, speaking from our core, and laying ourselves bare to others.  I knew this when she let me in the room as the main character of her linked story collection Olive Kitteridge stole her daughter-in-law’s shoe and bra, in an attempt to get the upper hand with the know-it-all who was a bit too much like Olive herself.

Like all great novels, Lucy by the Sea shows us the every day played out against the background of a larger drama.

While Olive acts out furtively, Lucy Barton, protagonist of Lucy by the Sea, talks to us openly with great warmth and frankness about her experiences navigating the pandemic. The catastrophe becomes the backdrop for Lucy’s deepening understanding of herself, attempt to understand the politics of the day, and changes in her close personal relationships wrought by the crisis.

The story begins with Lucy’s ex-husband and friend, William Gerhardt, a scientist, suggesting they decamp to a rented house on the coast of Maine to avoid the Covid virus, which is ravaging New York City. Lucy’s response is honest and heartbreaking. “I felt terribly sad, like a child, and I thought of the children’s book Heidi that I had read in my youth, and of how she had been sent somewhere and she was so sad that she walked in her sleep. For some reason this image of Heidi kept going through my mind. I would not be able to go home, and this sank into me deeper all the time.”

Lucy’s feelings of childlike helplessness, which return in other sections of the book, seem entirely real and grounded in her experience of childhood trauma. The rawness of Lucy’s voice is born out of not being seen as a child. Lucy’s difficult childhood was chronicled in earlier novels, My Name is Lucy Barton and Oh William (shortlisted for the Booker Prize). That Strout lets us in on Lucy’s fears, builds readers’ empathy and makes them cheer Lucy on as she continues to navigate the world.

Her first response to the pandemic is disbelief, which morphs into grief as acquaintances die. “It’s odd how the mind does not take anything in until it can,” observes Lucy. Her grief is magnified as she mourns her second husband, David, a cellist who’d died a year earlier.

As it was for some of us in real life, the pandemic was an impetus for Lucy’s personal exploration. Living in a remote setting in Maine that includes pockets of poverty, Lucy recalls her own childhood of loneliness and depravation, as she says to William:

“My whole childhood was a lockdown. I never saw anyone or went anywhere.”

And the truth of this hit me straight into the bowels, and William just looked at me and said, “I know, Lucy.” He said it as a reflex, without thinking about what I had said, is what I thought. But I was so sad that evening: I understood—as I have understood at different points in my life—that the childhood isolation of fear and loneliness would never leave me.

Lucy also contemplates the socioeconomic and political divides of the day. Exploring Maine by car, Lucy notices the poverty around her and thinks about her siblings living a working-class life back in Illinois and the political affiliations born of their disenfranchisement.  “They had been made to feel poorly about themselves, they were looked at with disdain, and they could no longer stand it,” Strout writes. But reflecting on the January 6th insurrection, she adds, “And then I thought, No those were Nazis and racists at the Capitol. And so my understanding — my imagining of the breaking of the windows — stopped there.”

The pandemic also becomes a driving force for the evolution of Lucy’s personal relationships. Secluded with her first husband William, she learns that he has prostate cancer and was rendered impotent by the surgery. As they grow closer again, she finds they are able to connect in ways that go beyond the physical, despite his betrayal of her by having affairs during their marriage.

She also builds a friendship with Bob Burgess (a character in Strout’s novel The Burgess Boys) who accompanies her on walks, listening attentively, gives Lucy and William Maine license plates for the car so that they can avoid the hostility of neighbors who would see them as outsiders, and connects William with a doctor who can help him with prostate issues.

Her relationship with one of her daughters is changed as she watches Becka navigate her husband’s infidelity, which mirrored Lucy’s earlier experience with William. Lucy laments Becka’s lack of communication and is set straight by her daughter Chrissie:

“She doesn’t call me anymore,” I said. Chrissy hesitated before she said, “I think she doesn’t need you like she used to. Even those years married to Trey she still needed you, but, Mom, you did your job. She’s on her way.”

So we watch as Lucy does her best to understand herself and connect with others in a world changed by the global pandemic.  She is adrift at times but ultimately anchored in love, connection, and the bravery required by everyday life.  Like all great novels, Lucy by the Sea shows us the every day played out against the background of a larger drama. It remains the small moments that yield wisdom and reflect the complexity, the horror, and the beauty of life.
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Lucy Barton, a writer with a book launch and tour on the horizon, struggles to deal with the death of her beloved second husband, David. Her first husband, William, with whom she maintains a friendly relationship, convinces her to escape Manhattan to a rental home in coastal Maine where they’ll ride out the impending public health crisis caused by an unrelenting virus. She doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but William is a scientist who follows the news and understands the warnings. Lucy, whose life has had its share of catastrophes, including a poverty-driven childhood, a contentious mother-daughter relationship, William’s affairs, and now inconceivable widowhood, isn’t ready for another crisis. Nevertheless, she believes William even if she hasn’t been paying attention to the world around her. 

Throwing clothes and a few important things in a bag (thinking it’ll be a week or two), Lucy accompanies William to a place vastly different from the Manhattan she knows intimately. There, they take lengthy walks, make friends, observe social distancing protocols, re-discover their lost relationship, and keep an eye on the news as the place they left seems to fall into a death spiral. Separated from family and friends, Lucy constantly worries about them and reaches out, feeling helpless as this one or that one contracts Covid-19 and as they lose this or that friend or family member. 

Lucy by the Sea is a quiet novel of a woman trying to make sense of her profound loss, a global pandemic, the changes the country and the world go through, the separation and distance she feels from her grown daughters, and her slow realization that Covid-19 isn't going away in a week or two. Like everyone, she tries to navigate her isolation and finds ways to have human interaction aside from William. As the days pass, Lucy learns things about herself and sees people in a different light as the days plod onward. The little things she thinks about, tiny memories triggered by an errant thought or by seeing or hearing something become more important than she had ever thought. 

Strout’s frugal but expressive prose recaptures the disconnection, confusion, and uncertainty of that period of recent memory wherein Covid-19 changed the way we think about so many things we took for granted and the way we think about ourselves and others. Strout writes in snippets of Lucy’s thoughts, realizations, wonderings, adding Lucy’s feelings about each as if she were making declarations with thumbs up or down, whether she was aware of something or not. Lucy has no qualms in revealing her deepest thoughts to the readers. While Lucy’s experience with the pandemic is vastly different from mine or perhaps yours, it is honest and believable, and her feelings and fears are such that Lucy will, in one way or another, resonate with the reader.
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Lucy by the Sea is the newest in the Lucy Barton series. I love Strout's writing, as it is simple but still packs a punch. I don't think you need to have read the prior books to get this one, but it would aid in understanding the characters' backstories. I loved the pandemic angle as well
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Many books have struggled to add the pandemic into their narratives ever since COVID utterly changed everyone’s lives.
This novel though, completely captures the fear, confusion, sadness and hope that became a part of all of us and our daily lives. It was almost therapeutic to read what felt like could have be my own journal at times. I have not read other Lucy Barton books, and I can see why so many have fallen in love with this character and the sensitive way she views her world.
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Lucy by the Sea is a lovely co ruination of characters from other Strout novels but it also stands alone. Taking place during the early days of the pandemic through to the first rounds of vaccinations, it is a touching portrayal of the process of finding yourself when it seems like everything else is lost, and how to care for yourself even when you are exhausted with worry about others.
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Thank you for the ARC Netgalley & Random House. I was kind of nervous to start this one because it was my first Elizabeth Strout book and I wasn't sure if I needed to have read her others to understand this one. I think it can help to have read the others, but wasn't necessary. 

It was deeply sad. This book talks about COVID, aging, marriage, children, and all the things. It's well written but sad.
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As I have understood at different points in my life-that the childhood isolation of fear and loneliness would never leave me. My childhood has been a lockdown. We are all in lockdown, all the time. We just don't know it, that's all. But we do the best we can. Most of us are just trying to get through.

Lucy and her ex-husband William left New York during the beginning of Covid for Maine. Each for their own reasons. I think their personal reasons drove their characters and the plot. What makes their story so relatable is that we all were part of it. The fear of Covid. Being separated from loved ones, relationships changing, the demonizing of those that think differently than we do. Lucy felt everything and was able to articulate her journey. Lucy was very self-aware of all that she was facing and not facing.

The crazy thing is Covid revealed her relationship with her ex-husband and their daughters. The strength of those relationships and their weakness. Anyone who reads this will see a little of themselves in this awareness of our vulnerability and insecurities. I am hoping this book makes it to the next round of the Goodreads Choice Awards. Very deserving.

A special thank you to Random House Publishing and Netgalley for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review.
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Strout continues her story of Lucy as the pandemic grips the country.  As she shelters in place with her ex-husband she discovers new friends and copes with family upheavals.  A good choice for readers who like her memoir style of first person narrative.
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Lucy By the Sea returns faithful readers of Elizabeth Strout’s novels to familiar people and places. It’s 2020 and Lucy’s ex-husband William tells her to pack and come with him. Unlike Lucy, he has been paying attention to the news and knows COVID is about to overtake New York City in previously unimaginable ways. They drive up to Maine and shelter there. In this slight book, Strout manages to capture the whole of the COVID experience. The fraught solitude, the fear of New Yorkers bringing sickness with them, the flagrant fecklessness of those who think COVID can’t touch them, and the strain on relationships when people spend too much time together without relief in sight. Or,, how people can come together in generosity and compassion.

William is determined to save his family and that includes his ex-wife Lucy, He makes arrangements for his adult children and his other ex-wife and daughter to make sure they take the pandemic seriously and survive. His son-in-law is immune-compromised and when he learns that his daughter’s in-laws are coming back from Florida to move back into their house, he drives down to confront them as they arrive and insist they stay elsewhere and then turns around and drives home. He understands the dangers of COVID while so many others do not.

There is something dream-like about Lucy By the Sea. But there was an unreality to the silence and solitude of the early pandemic, before there were vaccines. A lot of people thought the shutdown would give them time to do projects they always planned to do, to write more, read more, to paint, to plant a garden, and so on. Yet there was this ennui, avid readers reported reading less, writers could not write. And Strout captures this with Lucy whose days pass in a bit of a muddle, not writing, taking walks or staring out to sea.

This is not “the” pandemic novel. I imagine that would be one more like Susan Straight’s Mecca with a family with at least one or two essential workers who have to navigate the fear of exposure or with a family that didn’t have the wealth that allowed them to flee from New York City to a rural haven in Maine. But this does capture the ennui of isolation that most of us felt during 2020.

I received an e-galley of Lucy By the Sea from the publisher through NetGalley.

Lucy By the Sea at Penguin Random House
Elizabeth Strout author site
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Writing a book set during the pandemic takes courage–and maybe even unquenchable optimism. In Lucy By the Sea, Elizabeth Strout plunks her protagonist, an author from New York City, smack dab in rural Maine to sit out the pandemic. This is a stroke of genius because it serves as an apt metaphor for the utter dissonance COVID inflicted upon the world.

Lucy’s ex-husband is the mastermind behind their exile on the Maine coast. Lucy and William have been divorced (and even remarried to other people!) but concern for their adult children and mutual kindness continue to bind them together. Lucy is caught completely off guard by the need to shelter in place, but, like the rest of us, she was sure it would all be over in a few weeks.

With apologies to T. S. Eliot, March in Maine is actually “the cruelest month,” for all is brown and bleak. Thus began Lucy’s long list of things she did not like which included staying in someone else’s house, the specific house they were borrowing (but also her NYC apartment), cold weather, snow, and doing puzzles.

For anyone with a history of trauma, the lockdown may have been doubly traumatizing, as Lucy captured so well: “My whole childhood was a lockdown. I never saw anyone or went anywhere.”

Lucy’s anxiety and her need for clarity require her to back up sometimes in order to go forward in her careful narration of the events. Distressed by the fairly recent death of her second husband and the conviction that she would “never write another word again,” Lucy weathers her circumstances by leaning into the comfort of routine and a daily walk. With the tides, her sadness rose and fell, and like it or hate it, something like normal begins to emerge in the midst of COVID chaos.

Lucy was, quite unexpectedly, very good company. I found myself sympathetic toward her frailty and amused by her quirky overthinking. If I were her friend, I would encourage her to talk about her deprived childhood when she was always cold–and then to grab a blanket. “Be warm now, Lucy. Be warm, today.”

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.
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If you have never read this author…BUCKLE UP! She is blunt, truthful and insightful. And this book nails them all. This is a story about Lucy and William, AGAIN! They have a history. They have been married before and share two children. But William cheated on their marriage. So, divorce was inevitable. Now, here it is years later and William moves Lucy in with him in Maine to avoid the pandemic in NYC. These two have a bond and a friendship that is hard to come by.

The first time I read this author, I thought, how depressing. I remember sending in my review to the publisher and it said “I read to escape, this book is no escape!” But, there is just something about her books that keep me thinking and I just keep coming back. Her books make you reflect on your past and sometimes that is just not a happy process. But, it is a necessary process to grow. So, once again, Elizabeth Strout is amazing with Lucy By The Sea!

This is a story about love, family, friendship, and trying to survive. I could name a thousand more astute areas of this novel. Just know, it is a novel which just might put you in a pensive mood. But everyone needs to read Elizabeth Strout! Trust me!

Need a book which will have you reflecting and just enjoying the moment…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today!

I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.
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It took me a few tries to get into Lucy By the Sea.  I was just not ready to read a book about the pandemic.  Though we are no longer locked down, we are still struggling with the virus, wearing masks, and the accompanying isolation.  We are also not far enough removed from the political unrest for me to lose myself in the story.  It’s just too soon for me.

However, once I finally began reading, I finished it in a day. Elizabeth Strout remains one of my favorite writers.  The quiet beauty of Lucy’s relationship with William is explored further in this story.  Her relationship with her daughters is complex and honest, and one particular scene with Crissy brought me to tears (no spoilers here).  The setting in Maine was beautifully written, and I could almost picture the house on the edge of the cliff, as it changed throughout the seasons.  And I was thrilled that Olive Kitteridge made a cameo in this story!  

Despite the time period that was a little problematic for me, I will still read anything that Strout writes.

My thanks to NetGalley for an Advanced Readers Copy of this book. All opinions are my own and not biased in any way.
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If you don't want to read co-vid books, do read this. however if you can, this will be a good one. Same Lucy and William banter. What happens when they quarrantine together in Maine during the pandemic.
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This book centers on Lucy and the pandemic.  The book starts escribing Lucy as grieving for her recently deceased husband.  When her ex-husband talks her into leaving NYC for coastal Maine, Lucy agrees and off they go.  I think that the author did a good job describing the early days of the pandemic, the fear, anxiety, the questions - we all experienced.  
However, I felt that Lucy's observations were flat, detached and annoying.  There were so many things that Lucy didn't like - masks, social distancing- that  the story became boring and repetitious.  Adding in the author's (Lucy's) liberal political viewpoints and the offensive way she thought of people who had a different political point of view - and I really found the book too hard to take.  
This book had very little plot, but a lot of internal musings by Lucy, and a lot of whining and negativity in her reflections of her life. The book was very slow moving, although little snippets of her thoughts we short and scattered throughout the book.
one thought that I wish Lucy had reflected upon during her musings were "We are all in this together."  Yes, we are and we all do what we can to get through it.
I received this ARC from the NetGalley and the publisher and all opinions are my own.
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This is my first time reading a book by Elizabeth Strout. I started it on a camping trip and read voraciously in our tent until the end. It has been a few weeks since I finished the book, but it has stayed with me as few do. This is a book about relationships in the time of covid-between close and distant family, friends, and acquaintances. I was nervous to read it because covid still feels so close. Although everything was very accurately described, reading about Lucy's experiences brought me a sense of peace. I was in a different part of the country, so it was interesting to read about how other people experienced the early days of the pandemic. I highly recommend.
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