Published: May 2017 (This edition Mar 2018)
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Published by: Penguin
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 272 pages / 8 hrs 29 minutes
Reading dates: 26 January-2 February 2023
Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others. Anything is Possible tells the story of the inhabitants of rural, dusty Amgash, Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton, a successful New York writer who finally returns, after seventeen years of absence, to visit the siblings she left behind.
Reverberating with the deep bonds of family, and the hope that comes with reconciliation, Anything Is Possible again underscores Elizabeth Strout’s place as one of America’s most respected and cherished authors.
OK – so a confession. I am reading this series by Elizabeth Strout in completely the wrong order! I read book 3 of the Amgash series, Oh William! in November 2021 and Lucy by the Sea in December 2022. Anything is Possible is Book 2! I would say it doesn’t really matter and I’ve enjoyed them in this funny order but I’m sure it would be better to read them in order if you can!
Anything is Possible is set either in Amgash, the small hometown of Lucy Barton or else it features characters from Lucy’s life when she was growing up. The stories don’t all revolve around Lucy but just feature people who have a connection to her – for example the janitor of the school she went to who saw how poor she was growing up who has a friendship with Lucy’s brother or the current school counsellor who is now dealing with Lucy’s wayward but bright niece. The stories all mention Lucy and what the characters thought of her growing up and of the success she has now as a best selling author.
The only story to directly feature Lucy is when she returns home to Amgash when on a book tour to visit her childhood home to see her brother Pete. The story is told from Pete’s point of view, how he worries about how Lucy will see the house and how he has a haircut in preparation. Their reunion is sweet but things get prickly when Lucy’s sister Vicky unexpectedly turns up. Other stories feature Lucy’s cousins Dotty and Abel who also grew up in poverty – other characters remember them visiting the Barton family and routing through bins for food.
What I absolutely loved about Anything is Possible was the glimpse into these unforgettable character’s lives – Strout has the ability to bring you into these characters’ lives for a few short pages and they really do stay with you. All the stories connect to characters that are mentioned in different stories and I loved the little realisation as I remembered them. Strout manages to bring heartbreak and humour to her writing and you feel that every detail has been included for a reason.
I’ve started to listen to audio books from the library to try and get control of my TBR by listening to books I already own in physical copy. The narrator of this one, Kimberly Farr was marvellous and I’d highly recommend it as an audio book. Now to go and read My Name is Lucy Barton!
About the author
Elizabeth Strout is the author of several novels, including: Abide with Me, a national bestseller and BookSense pick, and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. In 2009 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her book Olive Kitteridge. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker. She teaches at the Master of Fine Arts program at Queens University of Charlotte.