Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

I'm generally a big fan of short stories. I love how a skillful short story writer can pack a whole lot into a small space. Strout has taken that format and made it much tougher for herself by linking the short stories in "Anything Is Possible."

Everyone in these stories is somehow related to the main character in her previous novel, "My Name Is Lucy Barton," which is a clever choice. I read an interview with Strout in which she said she wrote both books at the same time, moving back and forth between them as a scene occurred to her. I'd think that was a tough way to write a novel, but whatever works!

Her writing it spare, which fits with the bleakness of her characters' lives. This is my third Strout novel, and I've yet to read about anyone chipper and carefree. These are some tormented people! Every type of malady and misfortune has beset these folks, and most of them don't deal with their troubles very well. Nearly everyone should be in intensive therapy, but some of the characters are too far gone to have even great therapy help much.

I know this sounds like a book no one would want to read, but she's a great storyteller, able to weave in little pieces of the characters' personalities to make each of them whole. They're not very likable, they wouldn't be fun at a party, and your life would not be enriched by knowing most of them. But she does such a great job of creating them and making their horrible lives interesting that you can't put the book down. If you want to read a book where you can say, "Boy, my life is sooooo much better than all of those people," this is the one for you.