Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Oh William!

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
10/19/21; 256 pages
Random House

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout is a very highly recommended character driven novel.

"We are all mysteries," is certainly the thought in the forefront of writer Lucy Barton's musings, especially when considering her ex-husband, William. He has always been a hard man to read. The two have two adult daughters and remained friends after their divorce over twenty years ago due to his infidelities. Now Lucy is 63 has lost her beloved second husband and soul mate, David, a year ago. William has turned 70 and is married to his much younger third wife, yet he still calls Lucy when he has night terrors. Then, after his third wife leaves him, William asks Lucy to accompany him on a trip to Maine after he discovers that he has an older half sister that he never knew about.

As the novel unfolds, Lucy reminisces about Catherine Cole, William's mother. William's night terrors often involved his mother. Although she says they both loved her, some of the stories reflect a much more complicated and complex relationship between Lucy and Catherine that reflects less love and more control, insecurity, and a focus on social appearance. The road trip to Maine reveals Catherine's background and Lucy has a startling revelation about William's relationship with her.

This is the third of Strout's Amgash series, including My Name Is Lucy Barton and Anything Is Possible, and continues her reflections on the mysteries, fears, struggles, secrets, and insecurities inherent in families, marriages, and all relationships between people. Narrated by Lucy Barton, Oh William! is a character driven novel that explores themes of loneliness and betrayal. All the characters are flawed.

As expected the writing is glorious and perfectly executed as the complexity of relationships is examined and reveals new insights. The plots unfolds through Lucy's thoughts, insights, musings, and reactions. Fortuitously, Lucy is a thoughtful, introspective, and reliable narrator who is cognizant of the human condition and attuned to human failings and foibles. She accepts the inscrutability, and ultimately the enigma of everyone's inner thought life, and as such, the impossibility to truly understand another person.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House via NetGalley.

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