Book Review: Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Anything is Possible is Elizabeth Strout's follow-up short story collection in the Amgash series, which began with My Name is Lucy Barton.
Lucy Barton was a short novel that packed a punch and I read it in a day. It had a simple writing style which in my opinion, made me see the character in a more honest, stripped down way.
Anything is Possible took one of my favourite aspects from Lucy Barton, which were the stories of the small town people that her mother relayed back to Lucy while she was in the hospital, recovering from a procedure that went wrong. Lucy and her mother had a fractured relationship and in by telling these stories, her mother connects to her daughter and reveals more about herself to Lucy than she probably would have if they were just having a normal conversation.
The characters touched upon in Anything is Possible may have been mentioned in Lucy Barton but you don't have to read My Name is Lucy Barton to read the second novel, though there are some mentions of Lucy in Anything is Possible which are a joy that you would miss out on if you didn't read the first. Lucy is a common link that connects the short stories however the stories also link as they all revolve around a handful of characters that know each other or of each other, or happen to be related. The contrast between the two Nicely sisters, for an example, was very cleverly done, with one sister in a marriage with a sexual predator, and the other sister, widowed by a husband who had a been a sexual assault victim. Both sisters, while having faced the same childhood, go in two completely different directions.
What I loved about Anything is Possible is that it shines a light on a variety of different people and their lives. The good, the bad, the weird and the wonderful all have a way of being portrayed honestly, which may make you like the characters or may make you dislike them, but either way you have an opinion and you feel for these characters (whether in a positive or negative way depends on your own worldview).
The stories have an interesting take on women and their roles in relationships, the lives they choose to live and the impact on their families. You have the wives putting up with their husbands, the wives who leave their husbands, ones who are cheated on, one who has cheated, one who is bored, another who never got married at and is viewed as lonely and sad. It is an interesting contrast as you may get the story from the character's point of view and then you get to see from another character's point of view just what they thought of that person. Always though, the woman is viewed fairly negatively. If the wife leaves her husband, her children hate her and she is viewed negatively by others however there is also the wife who stays with her husband and is viewed as dimwitted, simple, plain etc. It mirrors my experiences in everyday life where you just can't win, no matter what you choose to do. In someone's eyes, you will be judged. Nevermore is this true than in a small town such as Amgash and it's surrounding suburbs.
This book was a pick for the Modern Mrs Darcy's Summer Reading Guide 2017, which first made me pick up Lucy Barton, to read in order to move on to Anything is Possible. Thank goodness that I did, as I discovered a new author to me and not one but two great new books that were both excellent reads.
Have you read Anything is Possible or anything else by Elizabeth Strout? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below.