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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

Overall rating

4.2 out of 5
5 Stars
34 reviews have 5 stars
4 Stars
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3 Stars
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  • Perfect

    It is as though Strout has written these characters from their wounds outwards. Their vulnerability and anguish might be too painful to read if the stories weren’t also quite funny and the situations fascinating. At times the stories are so real they are surreal and so powerful they cause a shudder.

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    1 person found this review helpful

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  • Beautifully crafted stories of real people

    An amazing array of interconnected stories about a community and the people who live in a fictitious town in rural Illinois. Characters can have a fleeting role in one short story and be the feature of another with each being narrated from a new perspective. The writing is a rich observation of human behaviour.

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    1 person found this review helpful

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  • Anything is Possible

    A very sobering, unusual story of poverty & the effect is has on those who are poor & those who do not understand the poor. I found it hard to follow at times, as there were so many different characters woven into the story. On the whole, I enjoyed it

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  • Good start

    I was quite excited when I started this book and liked the idea of the characters having links of some kind with each other, but the book seemed to end so abruptly. I was disappointed that the supposed climax didn't tie it all together in some way, shape, or form. Hence, the lower rating.

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    1 person found this review helpful

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  • another powerful read

    Anything Is Possible is the second novel in the Amgash series by best-selling American author, Elizabeth Strout. There was, in Lucy Barton’s memoir, mention of a number of people whose lives intersected with her own when she lived in Amgash. Their recollections of the Barton family, and their encounters with the members of that family, and each other, provide different perspectives of the life she described, expanding on what she shared and providing a background to those lives. As Tommy Guptill, former janitor at the high school, drives past the Barton farm into town, he recalls his concern for young Lucy; the book store has made a display of her memoir; on his return he calls in to check on Pete Barton’s welfare and hears a disturbing confession. High School Counsellor, Patty Nicely loses her cool during an unpleasant encounter with Lucy’s niece, Lila Lane; conversations with her sister and her increasingly-demented mother recall incidents with the Barton family; reading Lucy’s memoir is a positive experience that inspires a good deed. Patty’s older sister, Linda Peterson-Cornell and her wealthy husband host a photographer exhibiting at the Summer Festival. Yvonne Tuttle feels uncomfortable, apparently with good reason. What happens next has her assessing why she is so loyal to her perverted husband. Vietnam vet and PTSD sufferer, Charlie Macauley gives the woman he loves a gift not his to give, then waits for the inevitable fallout in Dottie Blaine’s B&B. Having decamped to Italy with her lover four years earlier at the age of seventy-four, Mary Mumford finally gets a visit from her dearest daughter, Angelina. Misunderstandings are cleared up, marriages discussed and Amgash gossip shared. Pete Barton prepares for a visit from the sister who has not returned to their Amgash house in seventeen years. They are surprised by their sister Vicky’s arrival, and Lucy’s reaction to unearthed childhood memories baffles them both. In her B&B, Dottie Blaine, second cousin to the Barton siblings, sees a passing parade of guests, some of whom share confidences she would rather not be burdened with; others, like Charlie Macauley, for whom she will always feel empathy. When actress Annie Appleby returns to the family’s potato farm, her father’s long-held secret is revealed. Abel Blaine, the second cousin who took Lucy Barton dumpster diving when they were dirt-poor and hungry, muses on his acquired wealth with a poorly-reviewed theatre actor. These vignettes of peoples’ lives occur over a year or more, and illustrate that premise of six or less degrees of separation. Revisiting those characters from Lucy’s memoir, and learning more of their lives, is quite a pleasurable experience. Strout gives many of them wise words and insightful observations: “This was the skin that protected you from the world – this loving of another person you shared your life with” and “They had grown up on shame; it was the nutrient of their soil” are examples. Strout’s writing, both in style and subject matter, is reminiscent of Sebastian Barry with shades of Anne Tyler. Strout writes about ordinary people leading what they believe are ordinary lives (although there are definitely some quirky ones doing strange things amongst them) and does it with exquisite yet succinct prose. Another powerful read.

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