I so loved Elizabeth Strout's My Name is Lucy Barton, and I couldn't wait to read this one after hearing that many of the people mentioned in Barton would appear here, including Lucy herself. I even reread Barton in preparation (and loved it even more the second time around, if that's possible). So maybe my hopes were just too high.
Like Lucy Barton, this collection of interwoven stories is a quiet one, often with what's not being said as important as what's being said. But when we learned about the characters in the new book in Barton, we saw them through Barton's eyes, through her memories, and through her difficult, shifting memories involving her family. Now we see the characters through their own eyes, and yes, we gain insight on some of the things the earlier book touched on.
But it felt a little too disparate to me. There were some stories I liked very much. There's a very creepy one about an affluent couple who are keeping some disturbing secrets, and another where Lucy comes home to visit after a 17-year absence, and her brother and sister have quite different feelings about her visit. The dynamics are tense and frustrating and perfect.
But then there's a meandering story that takes place in a bed-and-breakfast, and a story about the kind janitor who used to let Lucy stay after school instead of going home right away because he suspected something wasn't right at home. The story strains to get to its conclusion. And the less said about the closeted gay farmer story, the better.
Ah well. Strout is still one of my favorite authors, thanks to Barton and Olive Kitteredge. I'll keep the faith and await her next book.