Category Archives: Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap

THE MONDAY BOOK: Oh William by Elizabeth Strout

We apologize for the lack of blog posts last week. In a world filling up with words resulting from tragic events, it seemed best not to add to them. We’re back now.

This week’s Monday book comes from the irrepressible Janelle Bailey. She would love to hear comments on this blog, as she is sharing one of her favorites this week.

Oh, Elizabeth! So dependable an author, you are. Few write in such a way that they can be so completely trusted, with each and every book they produce, to transparently share, somehow and so valuably the critical stuff that is inside of a soul. I find that every one of your characters help readers to see clearly another and to gain from better understanding what makes them tick; coinciding, they may see glimpses into themselves and do a little therapy by reflecting. Your “stuff” is always just so believable, your characters dependable narrators and well developed.

In this book the soul unwrapped and revealed most fully is title character William’s ex-wife, who is the writer Lucy Barton. Devoted readers of all books Strout may remember her from My Name is Lucy Barton. In the addressing of her inner soul and guts, Elizabeth, you bring us readers to cringe and struggle and smile and tear up and more, as we go through all of this with Lucy.

Strout’s stream of consciousness storytelling takes us back into Lucy Barton’s past and all the sense she has tried to make–or avoid–of it these many years since her…well, maybe she’s been trying to escape it, really.

This book is also about William, for sure, as it shares things about his life and past, and his mother Catherine Cole’s as well, most especially presenting the relationship she and Lucy had as mother-in-law and daughter-in-law when Lucy and William were married and how that influenced things after their divorce as well.

While it’s not necessary to have read, let alone recently, Strout’s earlier book about Lucy—for sufficient reference is made here to the pertinent elements of her character and past–I do think reading or re-reading that book first would enhance one’s richer experience in reading this one as well as provide the reader opportunity to spend more time with these characters (and also with Strout’s high quality writing). Her books are not long, and I am always a wee bit sad when they end…simply because they are over. I have read every single one of them.

You have to go there to know there: you have to read Strout to see how truly she represents everywoman and the struggle to now simply be, given all one has seen and been and lived and felt. It’s not easy to be any of us…but Strout makes it all…okay. Survivable. Strengthening. While I feel one gains the very most by reading every Strout book to know all of her characters and know them well, a new-to-Strout reader can certainly, instead, pick up just this one (or another) and be quite satisfied by THAT story in a stand-alone experience.

Can’t wait for you to read this one if you have not already. Then let me know what you think!

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Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, reading

Divided by a Common Language – –

Jack sprints over the line with his Wednesday guest post – –

It may have been when we were traveling all over the country promoting Wendy’s book about our bookstore that we drove up through Ohio and decided to visit her aunt. We knew that we needed to turn left off the main road just after a railroad crossing but didn’t realize that were two of these fairly close. We took the wrong one and got lost!

Shortly after that a police car drew up and Wendy sent me over to talk to him. As soon as he heard my voice he said his name was Livingston and I said that’s a town in Scotland. We got into a conversation about where his folks might have originated. He got on the phone to his office and quickly established where Wendy’s aunt Lelah’s house was. Then he put his flashing lights on and conducted us right to her door.

A couple of years later we were booked for a festival in West Virginia but I didn’t realize as we left early in the morning to head into Kentucky for another gig that the speed limits were different. I was driving and Wendy was dozing as I noticed flashing lights behind. Should I stop, I asked her? We were driving the car we owned and left for us to use when in the US that was legally registered by her parents, but my driver license was British.

At that time a British driver license was a very large piece of pink paper folded up into a small space.

I’m sure you can imagine the conversation that started with – keep your hands on the wheel – –

As I moved from keeping my hands on the wheel to gripping it ever more tightly he was trying to make sense of someone with a British license driving a car with Tennessee plates speeding in Kentucky and with no photo ID! Wendy eventually had to start interpreting and translating. The cop headed back to his car shaking his head.

After quite a long time he came back, carefully folded my license and said this is far too much trouble, but remember it’s 65 in Kentucky!

It can sometimes be helpful to have a Scottish accent and other times not so much.

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Wendy Welch