Lucy is a widow, and she misses her second husband, David, terribly. Her entire life, or most of it, anyway, has been marred by deprivation, cruelty, and tragedy. Then finally she meets and marries a lovely man, and they are happy together until death parts them. She thinks of him constantly. But now the pandemic has taken hold, and although she isn’t really paying attention, her first husband, William, is. William is single now, too, and he and Lucy see one another from time to time because of their two daughters, both grown now. And so in this, the fourth of the Lucy Barton books, William obtains the keys to a friend’s cabin, clear up on the coast of Maine, and he swoops in and takes Lucy away with him, away from the contagion. Just for a week or two, she figures.
My thanks go to Net Galley and Penguin Random House for the invitation to read and review. This book is for sale now.
I must confess that after reading the first two in the series, My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible, I decided to give it a rest. Strout is a literary genius, of that I have no doubt, but the stories she wrote were so grim, and her formidable authorial skill only made them sadder. I decided for my own good to walk away.
But then I was invited to read and review the third, Oh William, and early reviews suggested more joy and less wretchedness, and after I read it, I was glad I had done it. That holds true here as well, although, like Becka and Chrissy, Lucy and William’s daughters, I am a little concerned for her. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
William is more alert than Lucy, or perhaps, like so many, she has been in denial. “It’s odd how the mind does not take in anything until it can.” She is reluctant to go. A friend has died; what about the funeral? She shouldn’t miss that! The friend, however, has died of COVID19, and William tells her there won’t be a funeral. But then…what about her hair appointment? Her lunch date? Cancel them, he tells her.
The most delicious thing about the Lucy books is the depth with which Strout develops character. In fact, there’s almost no action taking place. The books are eighty or ninety percent character. So naturally, the reader that needs an intricate plot to be happy won’t find satisfaction here, but those of us—and I am one of them—that are happiest exploring rich, dynamic characters are in for a treat.
It’s a strangely nostalgic journey. So many of the attitudes and expectations that gripped us during the early days of the pandemic are in full flower in these pages, and though it’s only been a couple of years, it was such a unique period that I find myself nodding when one character or another says something that sounds exactly like me, or a family member, or a friend.
But back to Lucy and William. They were married for nearly twenty years before he ran off with someone else, and now they have been divorced for about the same length of time. When Lucy asks William why he invited her to go with him, he tells her that he wanted to save her life; but in fact, there’s more to it, and this becomes clearer as we progress. And as much as I want dear Lucy to be happy, I also want to remind her that a man that will up and leave after twenty years for no reason other than an infatuation with someone else, is unlikely to be trustworthy on an emotional level. Watch yourself, Lucy. It’s good that you’re out of the germ pool, but hang onto your heart.
As for me, I look forward to seeing how things develop; the ending leaves little doubt that there must be an Amgash #5.
Faithful readers will want to read this book; for newbies, you can read them out of order and they’ll make sense, but because Strout is building her character as we go, it’s better to read them in order if you can. And also for newbies: Lucy and William are both Caucasian Boomers, and so the most enthusiastic readers will probably come from this demographic. Highly recommended.