In Elizabeth Strout's "Oh William!," a sequel that reckons with memories
Tom's guest for the hour today is the acclaimed writer, Elizabeth Strout. She is the best-selling author of eight novels and many short stories. She won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel, Olive Kitteridge. A film series adaption of that book starring Frances McDormand on HBO won eight Emmy Awards.
Elizabeth Strout’s previous novel, Olive Again, re-visited Olive Kitteridge. And her new novel, published this week, puts us in touch again with another one of her magnificent characters, Lucy Barton. It’s the third novel in which Lucy figures prominently. It centers on Lucy’s first husband, a successful scientist named William Gerhardt. It’s in part a road-trip story. Lucy and William, long divorced, set-off together on a journey to find a sister who William only recently discovered he had.
Elizabeth Strout often writes about people with big hearts who live in small towns. When we encounter Lucy and William in this novel, they are prosperous New Yorkers who struggle with reckoning about their small-town roots. Lucy and William are fantastic, complicated, wondrous characters who are crafted with compassion and grace and first-rate writerly skill.
The new novel is called Oh William! It's a poignant rumination on marriage, family, trauma, and the recognition that the past is never too distant from the present.
Elizabeth Strout joins Tom on Zoom from Nashville, Tennessee. Their conversation was recorded earlier this week, so we can't take any calls.