Reviews for Oh William! : a novel

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Pulitzer Prize winner Strout (Olive, Again, 2019) returns for a third time to her beloved character, Lucy Barton, now 63. Lucy begins with typical directness. She wants to say a few things about her first husband, William, who is approaching 70. They have remained friendly, post-divorce, and he turns to her when his third wife leaves him. Lucy agrees to accompany him on a trip to Maine to investigate a disconcerting discovery that rearranges both of their understandings about his mother. Lucy reflects on her life with and without him: her bleak childhood, his affairs, her abandonment of their marriage and children, her happy second marriage. Strout aims to explore the mystery of how people become who they are. In a moving metaphor, Lucy compares William and herself to Hansel and Gretel, lost in the woods, looking for the bread crumbs that could lead them home. But even now, in their senior years, they’re lost, a mystery to each other and to themselves. The way ahead remains unknown and frightening. When Lucy thinks, “Oh William!” she knows she also means, “Oh Lucy!” and, with tenderest sympathy and empathy, “Oh Everyone!” A masterful, wise, moving, and ultimately uplifting meditation on human existence.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Strout's latest wry and affecting inquiry into the hidden depths of quiet lives via one of her beloved recurring characters will be catnip for her fans and all lovers of refined, resonant fiction.


Publishers Weekly
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Loneliness and betrayal, themes to which the Pulitzer Prize–winning Strout has returned throughout her career, are ever present in this illuminating character-driven saga, the third in her Amgash series, after Anything Is Possible. Narrated by Lucy Barton, now a successful writer, the story picks up after the death of Lucy’s second husband as she navigates her relationship with her unfaithful first husband, William, the father of her two grown daughters. Lucy and William are still close friends, and though William has also remarried, he still needs Lucy, and she him. When William discovers he has a half sister, he summons Lucy, rather than his current wife, to visit where she lives in Maine. Lucy’s quest—indeed Strout’s quest—is to understand people, even if she can’t stand them. “We are all mythologies, mysterious. We are all mysteries, is what I mean,” she reflects. The strength of Lucy’s voice carries the reader, and Strout’s characters teem with angst and emotion, all of which Strout handles with a mastery of restraint and often in spare, true sentences. “But when I think Oh William! don’t I mean Oh Lucy! too? Don’t I mean Oh Everyone, Oh dear Everybody in this whole wide world, we do not know anybody, not even ourselves! Except a little tiny, tiny bit we do.” It’s not for nothing that Strout has been compared to Hemingway. In some ways, she betters him. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Agency. (Oct.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Pulitzer Prize winner Strout offers a third book linked to writer Lucy Barton, this time reflecting on her complex relationship with her first husband, before and after their divorce.While Anything Is Possible (2017) told the stories of people among whom Lucy grew up in poverty in Amgash, Illinois, this new novel returns to the direct address of My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016). Lucys beloved second husband, David, has recently died, and in my grief for him I have felt grief for William as well, she tells us. Her stuttering, stop-and-start narrative drops this and other pronouncements and then moves on, circling back later to elucidate and elaborate. After the pain of their separation subsided, Lucy and William became friends, close enough so that when he begins having night terrors at age 69, he confides in Lucy rather than his much younger third wife. (Wife No. 2 was among the many infidelities that broke up his marriage to Lucy.) Perhaps its because the terrors are related to his mother, Catherine, who seemed central to our marriage, Lucy tells us. We loved her. Oh, we loved her. Well, sometimes; Lucys memories reveal a deep ambivalence. Catherine patronized her, referring frequently to the poverty of Lucys background and her unfamiliarity with the ways of more affluent people. So its a shock to Lucy as well as William when he learns that his mother was married before, abandoned a baby daughter to marry his father, and came from a family even poorer than Lucys. Their road trip to Maine prompts Williams habitual coping mechanism of simply checking out, being present but not really there, which is the real reason Lucy left him. Strouts habitual themes of loneliness and the impossibility of ever truly knowing another person are ubiquitous in this deeply sad tale, which takes its title from Lucys head-shaking acknowledgment that her ex will never change, cannot change the remoteness at the core of his personality.Another skillful, pensive exploration of Strouts fundamental credo: We are all mysteries. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Pulitzer Prize winner Strout offers a third book linked to writer Lucy Barton, this time reflecting on her complex relationship with her first husband, before and after their divorce. While Anything Is Possible (2017) told the stories of people among whom Lucy grew up in poverty in Amgash, Illinois, this new novel returns to the direct address of My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016). Lucy’s beloved second husband, David, has recently died, and “in my grief for him I have felt grief for William as well,” she tells us. Her stuttering, stop-and-start narrative drops this and other pronouncements and then moves on, circling back later to elucidate and elaborate. After the pain of their separation subsided, Lucy and William became friends, close enough so that when he begins having night terrors at age 69, he confides in Lucy rather than his much younger third wife. (Wife No. 2 was among the many infidelities that broke up his marriage to Lucy.) Perhaps it’s because the terrors are related to his mother, Catherine, who “seemed central to our marriage,” Lucy tells us. “We loved her. Oh, we loved her.” Well, sometimes; Lucy’s memories reveal a deep ambivalence. Catherine patronized her, referring frequently to the poverty of Lucy’s background and her unfamiliarity with the ways of more affluent people. So it’s a shock to Lucy as well as William when he learns that his mother was married before, abandoned a baby daughter to marry his father, and came from a family even poorer than Lucy’s. Their road trip to Maine prompts William’s habitual coping mechanism of simply checking out, being present but not really there, which is the real reason Lucy left him. Strout’s habitual themes of loneliness and the impossibility of ever truly knowing another person are ubiquitous in this deeply sad tale, which takes its title from Lucy’s head-shaking acknowledgment that her ex will never change, cannot change the remoteness at the core of his personality. Another skillful, pensive exploration of Strout’s fundamental credo: “We are all mysteries.” Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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