Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout hardly needs introduction – it extends some of the characters mentioned in My Name Is Lucy Barton, and is structured much like Olive Kitteridge – interconnected short stories, to be read in order (some stories are resolved through other characters’ chapters later in the book, so you do need to read sequentially). It’s not necessary to read Lucy Barton first (or at all) in order to enjoy Anything is Possible but I reckon the book is enhanced by knowing Lucy’s story.
Despite the focus on the interior lives of individual people in small town America, Strout addresses two universal themes in Anything is Possible – that we are shaped by our past, and that we all want to be heard. Each character gives a different perspective on these themes, and the result is subtlety layered (without once feeling repetitive or contrived).
She did not say, and only fleetingly did she think: And you have always taken up so much space in my heart that it has sometimes felt to be a burden.
I think the strength in Strout’s writing comes from its beautifully understated tone. Her economy of words and the fact that she packs so much emotion (and big, heavy-hitting emotions) into ‘simple’ sentences is testimony to just how brilliant she is. For example, of a teenage girl whose mother had suddenly left the family for her lover, Strout writes, she “…had come home from school and found her mother gone, thinking she had been important, loved all along.”
In addition, Strout has the ability to take the smallest, most inconsequential scenes and slip in something powerful and emotive – stories are breathtakingly sad, unbelievably cruel, roiling with jealousy or filled with love.
His wife watched him for a moment; he saw her watching him, saw her eyes get a little bigger, then begin to break into a tenderness around their corners.
I received my copy of Anything is Possible from the publisher, Random House, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Shelly Small didn’t take more than one sip of the tea; that was just a prop, as they would say in the world of theatre, just a piece of furniture, so to speak, allowing her to sit in Dottie’s house on that autumn day while the light shifted through the room. That cup of tea, Dottie saw, gave her permission to talk.