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I am a huge Olive Kitteridge fan, so I assumed I must be a huge Elizabeth Strout fan.  Unfortunately, My Name is Lucy Barton was a disappointment, mostly because of the fundamental questions it did not answer for me.  Lucy spends the whole first half of the novel in the hospital – but there is never the slightest hint what is wrong with her.  That bothered me enough to over shadow the charming parts of the book.  While she is in the hospital, her mother, from whom Lucy as been estranged for a long time, comes to visit.  She sits at the foot of her daughter’s bed, calls her by her childhood nickname, Wizzle, and the two recount old stories and reminisce about forgotten personalities from the old neighborhood.  Occasionally a doctor or nurse comes in to check on something ? ? and abruptly her mother announces she must leave.

Lucy has a husband and daughters, who play very minimal roles in the story.  And even Lucy herself never rises to the role of a fully fleshed character in my mind.  She goes to classes to learn to write from a legendary teacher, Sarah Payne, who teaches her that we each have one single story to tell.  But Lucy Barton’s story is told in fragments, always with some necessary portion hidden behind the mysterious hospital curtain.

Looking to stroll through New York City on New Year’s Eve with a fashionable and fearless old lady?  Lillian Boxfish is your gal and a you will enjoy every minute of your time with this character.  Told in chapters that alternate between the 1984 New Year’s Eve walk and Lillian’s successful career as an ad woman for R. H. Macy’s in the 1930s, the novel spans a lifetime of love and loss.  The character is indeed based on a real woman named Margaret Fishback who was herself the real highest paid female advertising copywriter in the world during the 1930s.

Shrugging off the warning from her adult son that New York isn’t safe for an older woman on her own, Lillian is undaunted by the task of walking across town to a New Year’s Eve party she hadn’t even intended to go to.  Decked in a forgotten fur coat from the back of her closet, she encounters a mixed bag of characters along her way.

One of the last lines of the book sum up retrospective view of life – “No one survives the future, of course.  Over the years, I have rushed it, run from it, tried to shunt myself from its track.  That these efforts did not succeed does not mean that I regret them”