I instantly fell in love with Elizabeth Strout when I read last year’s My Name is Lucy Barton. It was without a doubt one of the finest novels of 2016.
Just 12 months later she’s back with this sort-of sequel: a collection of interconnected short stories about the people of Barton’s home town of Amgash, Illinois. Barton herself only appears in one of the stories – the stunning Sister – but she is a presence throughout: the only inhabitant of this small, forgotten corner of America to truly escape and discover fame and acclaim.
As with any such collection some of the stories are more successful than others. But here they are of a consistently high standard, thanks to Strout’s deceptively simple but exquisitely powerful prose.
Hers is a refreshingly ego-less brand of writing. She’s never a show off; she never gets in the way of her own story in a bid to prove to the reader how smart she is or how many big words she knows. She tells small, human stories with insight and pathos and an incredible ear for the way people talk to one another. It’s reality as pure poetry and I can’t think of a single writer who does it better.