Lucy tells us a story, in first person, about a time when she had to stay in the hospital for several weeks. Lucy is a writer who grew up in the Midwest but now lives in NYC with her husband and two girls. Lucy’s story is mainly about her mother coming to stay with her in the hospital for a week, her mother who has never met her granddaughters. To say that Lucy’s family was not a close one is sadly an understatement. The details of her upbringing slip into the story as she reflects on the week spent with her mother sitting beside her hospital bed.
It quickly becomes apparent that childhood was a very unhappy affair for Lucy. She had no television, no newspapers, no magazines and no books in her home. There was only one mirror that was high up above the kitchen sink, one supposes for her father to shave with. There are no neighbors, the only other house in sight belonged to the Pederson’s who raised pigs. Corn and soybean fields surround their small dwelling. Lucy thinks of a solitary oak tree as her friend, which is sad in itself, that your only childhood friend is a tree.
One of Sherlock Holmes’ comments to Watson, I forget which case he was solving at the time, that it’s out in the rural areas, in isolation, that the worst crimes take place. In the city people stay packed in close, so someone’s bound to hear abuse or violence, someone can see or take notice of what is going on. What Lucy endures as a child, and how it affects her in her adult life will stay with you for a good long while, I’m willing to bet. Ms. Strout’s style of writing is as bare as can be; she does not waste words. Another good tale by this author.