Anything Is Possible

Anything Is Possible

eBook - 2017
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Two sisters, one who trades self-respect for a wealthy husband and one who discovers a kindred spirit in the pages of a book, struggle with intimate human dramas at the sides of their community members and a returned Lucy Barton.

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April Selection, meeting 4/17


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wordsmith888
Jul 19, 2018

I really enjoyed chapter 1 and felt it was going to be a great book but after that, the more I read, the more I lost interest and stopped reading before I finished chapter 3. I found the characters in chapter 3 rather dull, lifeless and subversive and was not interested in knowing more about where their lives would lead them. Thus, the reason for my 2-star rating. I was very surprised to see that she won a Pulitzer Prize for this book!

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bktm2586
Jun 28, 2018

Elizabeth Strout is one of the best authors writing in America today. And most of the other comments reflect her skill and impact. However, I noticed one commentator who was confused by the book and gave up on it.

It is important to note that this book builds on characters Strout has used in her previous novels. Furthermore, this is not flow fiction; the chapters are free-standing, almost short stories, but with the same characters sometimes occurring in each. And this can be off-putting, or, at worst, confusing. It's like you didn't get the memo, or weren't let in on the joke. And the worst thing a writer can do is piss off the reader.

This is why I have sometimes recommended that people read her other novels first, in the order she wrote them. I read them as they came out over the years, but there are only six, so it shouldn't be that onerous.

A comment about 'no plot.' I thought most people, by now, who read literary fiction, have learned that this genre is not about the big finish; it's the journey, not the destination. Every paragraph has something in it worth reading and thinking about; don't skim. That's not what this form is about.

DPLjennyp Apr 06, 2018

I loved how each of the chapters highlights a different character, but that we catch glimpses of them in other stories. Strout is a master of this kind of storytelling.

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empbee
Mar 10, 2018

A cleverly constructed book with individual chapters that are connected by the same characters in various stages of their life in a small town. Warm without being sentimental.

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Blabbermouth
Feb 27, 2018

I didn't manage to see the beauty in the people of Amgash, Illinois but I did see the disturbed of the place.
It is the stories of the folk who live in a town where Lucy Barton was bought up & lived for her childhood years. Each chapter was a different person but some where in each story their paths intertwined with another person from part of another chapter. The writing style was great I just didn't get drawn to much about any of the people.

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jr3083
Feb 04, 2018

The front cover of this book announces that it is “From the author of My Name is Lucy Barton“. That’s important, because the books are matching parts of the same scenario: the famous Lucy Barton has written a highly acclaimed book. In My Name is Lucy Barton, which I reviewed here, Lucy the author is lying in hospital and her estranged mother comes to visit her. They speak past each other, rather than to each other, about the past and much is left unsaid.

In Anything is Possible, the back story is filled in. The events referred to obliquely which strike either Lucy or her mother dumb in My Name is Lucy Barton, are explored here in a series of tangentially linked short-stories. As with Olive Kitteridge (which I reviewed here) there are references between one story and another, and it’s as if a network map is being created here of small-town life in Amgash, Illinois. It’s about exclusion, regret, loneliness and willed blindness, and the inexorable march of one day after another.

The stories stand in their own right, but they’re more enjoyable for having read Lucy Barton beforehand. But there is of course a synergy between the two books, and the technique is very Kitteridge-esque, and I do wonder if Elizabeth Strout is going to break and do something different soon.

For the review with links, see
https://residentjudge.wordpress.com/2018/02/04/anything-is-possible-by-elizabeth-strout/

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wyenotgo
Feb 03, 2018

What makes this set of connected stories at once both compelling and disturbing is that all of the characters are so damnably, depressingly real. Almost without exception, their lives are badly screwed up. And rather than looking ahead and trying to salvage what is left, make the best of their lives, they condemn each other for the failings they sense within themselves; their only hope of gaining self-respect lies in disparaging their neighbors, meanwhile picking at their own hurts so that they cannot heal. Their recriminations, guilt, resentment, denial never ceases. Those who come from humble beginnings are treated as trash if they fail to rise in the world and bitterly resented if they succeed. The stories are riddled with vicious gossip and with the exception of Mary Mumford almost none of the characters are the least bit likable. While all of this is skillfully done, it's so gloomy and one-dimensional in its treatment of the human condition that I found myself searching for some relief, some ray of optimism. I found the interminable small-talk about their neighbors and relatives quite tiresome, the worst being in Dottie`s B&B. Someone needs to put these people out of their misery.
For me, the best story was the last one, a bit of theatre of the absurd featuring a conversation between a jaded businessman and a half-mad failing actor, each of them in a way a captive of the other, reminiscent of an Edward Albee play.
Strout is a highly proficient writer but one I'm not likely to read again; there are limits to the amount of human frailty I can tolerate within one book.

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mighty_mom
Jan 16, 2018

A string of short stories threaded together by location and one character. It should be read quickly because it's so hard to keep the people and connections straight. The stories can be insightful about their character's secrets, but there is very little happiness here. I give it 3 stars because this is a Pulitzer prize winning author, but this is not a prize winning book.

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llwboston
Jan 04, 2018

This is my favorite of the four Elizabeth Strout novels that I've read (incl. Olive Kittredge, My Name is Lucy Barton, The Burgess Boys). Beautiful portraits of men and women trying to reshape their own futures, which may seem predetermined by the lasting effects of childhood poverty, family disruption and shame.

A quite audacious beginning for a 21st century work features a man coming to terms with his faith in God. The stories that follow are at times inspiring, at times horrifying, at times both. All contain revelations about how people and their relationships change.

One very witty thread that runs through the novel is the responses to the publication of Lucy Barton's new book. Perhaps inspired by Elizabeth Strout's own experience? Many of the characters are connected to the long absent Lucy Barton, and these stories show how someone can remain present in the interior lives of the people they encounter even after losing contact.

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MaureenWilliamson
Dec 13, 2017

I found this book difficult to follow and to keep track of the characters. I gave up trying and didn't finish the book. Not even sure what the story line truly is.

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bktm2586
Jun 28, 2018

bktm2586 thinks this title is suitable for 21 years and over

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Sam_Stewart
May 03, 2018

"Mary looked up at the ceiling and thought that what her daughter could not understand was what it had been like to be so famished. Almost fifty years of being parched. At her husband's forty-first birthday surprise party-and Mary had been so proud to make it for his forty-first so he'd be really surprised, and boy he was really surprised-she had noticed how he did not dance with her, not once. Later she realized he was just not in love with her." page 132

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