#AMREADING ELIZABETH STROUT, MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON.
Lucy is in hospital recovering from an operation when her long-estranged mother shows up. The two women seem to reconnect, but there is tension below the surface of their reminiscences.
I was lonely. Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden inside the crevices of my mouth, reminding me.
When Lucy’s mother talks, it is with a slight rush of words, the compression of feeling that seemed to push up through her as she started, that morning, to suddenly speak of her childhood.
Lucy muses about her own childhood. Among her memories is the dreading-in-advance she felt, for example, when she had an appointment with the dentist. She realized she was wasting time by suffering twice, and wanted to suppress the advance-dreading, but there are things the mind cannot will itself to do, even if it wants to.
Both Lucy and her mother are sensitive to the constant judgment in this world. How are we going to make sure we do not feel inferior to another?
Lucy does not lack insight, but it makes her sad to think that a beautiful and true line comes to be used so often that it takes on the superficial sound of a bumper sticker.
Of the teacher in a creative writing class, she says: Every day she would start with a little sparkle, and within minutes fatigue set in. Her face became ravaged with fatigue. I don’t think I have seen before or since a face that showed its exhaustion so clearly.
I sympathize with the poor woman. Of course it’s exhausting to teach what can’t be taught.