There’s a new genre of fiction emerging – COVID Lit. Two of the books I read last month have commenced with the “shelter in place” orders that came in March 2020. And this is where Elizabeth Strout places Lucy Barton from her Amgash Series in Lucy by the Sea, the fourth in the series.
The pandemic has hit New York City, and William – Lucy’s ex-husband turned close friend – carts her off for protection to a small town in Maine to live in a house he’s rented on the cheap. The house is further isolated down a winding road and perched on a hill facing the ocean.
The uncertainty of how long the virus will last and thus how long they’ll need to be secluded provides a rich foundation for Strout’s keen eye for introspection. Lucy resists what it seems William has known all along – there are long-term implications to what’s going on.
Readers journey with Lucy as she figures out how to create sanity among the chaos and how, in the wake of real-life events like the murder of George Floyd, to come to terms with and grow from a new awareness she’s confronted with. The isolation forces a new way to maintain relationships with her daughters and other extended family, who are navigating their own ways amid the turmoil.
Normally, a book in a series should be able to stand on its own, and perhaps this one can too. But, I think readers who are familiar with Lucy, and in particular, are aware of exactly where Lucy and William left off in Oh William! will have a better appreciation for some of the significant changes in their relationship. And, I think they will love this book – even if they don’t like a primary plot point. (No spoilers, but this discussion point alone will make fantastic book club discussion fodder!)
For all of us who lived through this pandemic, this novel – and others like it – are providing interesting reminders of what we lived through, and that we, like these characters, are resilient.
There’s a new genre of fiction emerging – and I’m here for it.
I was provided an advanced reader copy of Lucy by the Sea by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. To learn more, go to netgalley.com. Lucy by the Sea is available to all readers beginning September 20, 2022.
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