Strout's new book combines the best of two of her previous novels, last year's very popular My Name is Lucy Barton, and 2008's Olive Kitteridge. Anything is Possible, published April 25, follows the novel-in-stories format of Olive Kitteridge, but the new book is about the characters from Lucy Barton. Sounds great, doesn't it? I think so.
In case you haven't read My Name is Lucy Barton, that book's title character is an author who is hospitalized in New York with a mysterious illness. Her mother, from whom she has been estranged, has taken her first plane trip from tiny Amgash, Illinois, to be by her daughter's side. For five days, the women tell each other stories; mostly gossip about the interesting, eccentric people they have known over the years in their tiny hometown. The truths of their own lives are not fully addressed.
In Anything is Possible, Strout writes about Lucy's childhood neighbors as "characters who deserved their own stories." The Barton family is seen through the eyes of the locals, and not favorably. Her "hellish childhoood", which is alluded to but not discussed in her namesake book, is illuminated through multiple points of view in the new novel. Lucy herself only makes one appearance, as a famous author who has written a memoir explaining the mysterious backstory of her childhood. She is regarded with disdain, as someone who turned her back on her people and is too fancy for her own good. The Bartons are not the only family in town with secrets, and as the small town neighbors tell their stories, the reader understands the depth of poverty and dysfunction that pervades Amgash.
I know you will wonder if you should read My Name is Lucy Barton to enjoy this companion volume, and I recommend that you do. Anything is Possible could easily stand alone, but it is a richer reading experience when you have already read about the characters within.
The book ends with the phrase "Anything was possible for anyone", and I would like to think that is true.