Elizabeth Strout’s latest novel Oh William! is full of what we love about Strout – stories of imperfect people managing life in imperfect ways.
Strout’s readers will be familiar with Oh William!‘s narrator – Lucy Barton – from earlier work. In this novel, Barton remains close to her first husband William, though in the many years since they’ve divorced, she’s married and buried a second husband. Sharing two daughters seems reason enough to occasionally meet for coffee or even casually slip into old affectionate pseudonyms for each other from their married days. And while she’s friendly with William’s latest (third) wife, Lucy senses something isn’t quite right there.
So, when William calls her and asks if she’ll go with him to explore a recently discovered family mystery, she’s isn’t completely surprised that he asked her.
Together, Lucy and William set off to explore William’s roots. What they discover complicates what they know of William’s mother, and perhaps gives clarity to Lucy’s own troubled relationship with her former mother-in-law.
Confession: I wasn’t a fan of My Name Is Lucy Barton – the novel that introduces this main character. It has been long enough since I read it that I don’t remember quite why. Maybe is was because of my strong affection for Strout’s other work that I just didn’t feel like it lived up to is predecessors?
That said, I’d LOVE to discuss this book with others. Lucy is an interesting character, and I hope this isn’t a spoiler to say that she seems to have a blind spot around how people continually take advantage of her. As we look for growth in our main characters, I wonder if there is evidence of that changing in her. And, I do plan to go back and reread My Name Is Lucy Barton to see if perhaps my experience with this work might change my opinion.
While I’m not ready to put Oh William! on the same plane as Olive Kitteridge or Olive, Again, Oh William! is a wonderful story of friendship redeemed from a life once shared and how sometimes processing our past brings us to a new way forward.
I was provided an advanced reader copy of Oh William! by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. To learn more, go to netgalley.com. Oh WIlliam! is available to all readers beginning October 19, 2021.
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