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Anything Is Possible
Cover of Anything Is Possible
Anything Is Possible
A Novel
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • An unforgettable cast of small-town characters copes with love and loss in this new work of fiction by #1 bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout.
    One of Entertainment Weekly's 10 Best Books of 2017 So Far
    A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK

    Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others.
    Here are two sisters: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband while the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. The janitor at the local school has his faith tested in an encounter with an isolated man he has come to help; a grown daughter longs for mother love even as she comes to accept her mother's happiness in a foreign country; and the adult Lucy Barton (the heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the author's celebrated New York Times bestseller) returns to visit her siblings after seventeen years of absence.
    Reverberating with the deep bonds of family, and the hope that comes with reconciliation, Anything Is Possible again underscores Elizabeth Strout's place as one of America's most respected and cherished authors.
    Praise for Anything Is Possible
    "When Elizabeth Strout is on her game, is there anybody better? . . . This is a generous, wry book about everyday lives, and Strout crawls so far inside her characters you feel you inhabit them. . . . This is a book that earns its title. Try reading it without tears, or wonder."USA Today (four stars)
    "Readers who loved My Name Is Lucy Barton . . . are in for a real treat. . . . Strout is a master of the story cycle form. . . . She paints cumulative portraits of the heartache and soul of small-town America by giving each of her characters a turn under her sympathetic spotlight."—NPR
    "These stories return Strout to the core of what she does more magnanimously than anyone else."The Washington Post
    "In this wise and accomplished book, pain and healing exist in perpetual dependence, like feuding siblings."The Wall Street Journal
  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • An unforgettable cast of small-town characters copes with love and loss in this new work of fiction by #1 bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout.
    One of Entertainment Weekly's 10 Best Books of 2017 So Far
    A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK

    Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others.
    Here are two sisters: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband while the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. The janitor at the local school has his faith tested in an encounter with an isolated man he has come to help; a grown daughter longs for mother love even as she comes to accept her mother's happiness in a foreign country; and the adult Lucy Barton (the heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the author's celebrated New York Times bestseller) returns to visit her siblings after seventeen years of absence.
    Reverberating with the deep bonds of family, and the hope that comes with reconciliation, Anything Is Possible again underscores Elizabeth Strout's place as one of America's most respected and cherished authors.
    Praise for Anything Is Possible
    "When Elizabeth Strout is on her game, is there anybody better? . . . This is a generous, wry book about everyday lives, and Strout crawls so far inside her characters you feel you inhabit them. . . . This is a book that earns its title. Try reading it without tears, or wonder."USA Today (four stars)
    "Readers who loved My Name Is Lucy Barton . . . are in for a real treat. . . . Strout is a master of the story cycle form. . . . She paints cumulative portraits of the heartache and soul of small-town America by giving each of her characters a turn under her sympathetic spotlight."—NPR
    "These stories return Strout to the core of what she does more magnanimously than anyone else."The Washington Post
    "In this wise and accomplished book, pain and healing exist in perpetual dependence, like feuding siblings."The Wall Street Journal
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    Excerpts-
    • From the book The Sign

      Tommy Guptill had once owned a dairy farm, which he'd inherited from his father, and which was about two miles from the town of Amgash, Illinois. This was many years ago now, but at night Tommy still sometimes woke with the fear he had felt the night his dairy farm burned to the ground. The house had burned to the ground as well; the wind had sent sparks onto the house, which was not far from the barns. It had been his fault—­he always thought it was his fault—­because he had not checked that night on the milking machines to make sure they had been turned off properly, and this is where the fire started. Once it started, it ripped with a fury over the whole place. They lost everything, except for the brass frame to the living room mirror, which he came upon in the rubble the next day, and he left it where it was. A collection was taken up: For a number of weeks his kids went to school in the clothes of their classmates, until he could gather himself and the little money he had; he sold the land to the neighboring farmer, but it did not bring much money in. Then he and his wife, a short pretty woman named Shirley, bought new clothes, and he bought a house as well, Shirley keeping her spirits up admirably as all this was going on. They'd had to buy a house in Amgash, which was a run-­down town, and his kids went to school there instead of in Carlisle, where they had been able to go to school before, his farm being just on the line dividing the two towns. Tommy took a job as the janitor in the Amgash school system; the steadiness of the job appealed to him, and he could never go to work on someone else's farm, he did not have the stomach for that. He was thirty-­five years old at the time.

      The kids were grown now, with kids of their own who were also grown, and he and Shirley still lived in their small house; she had planted flowers around it, which was unusual in that town. Tommy had worried a good deal about his children at the time of the fire; they had gone from having their home be a place that class trips came to—­each year in spring the fifth-­grade class from Carlisle would make a day of it, eating their lunches out beside the barns on the wooden tables there, then tromping through the barns watching the men milking the cows, the white foamy stuff going up and over them in the clear plastic pipes—­to having to see their father as the man who pushed the broom over the "magic dust" that got tossed over the throw-­up of some kid who had been sick in the hallways, Tommy wearing his gray pants and a white shirt that had Tommy stitched on it in red.

      Well. They had all lived through it.

      This morning Tommy drove slowly to the town of Carlisle for errands; it was a sunny Saturday in May, and his wife's eighty-­second birthday was just a few days away. All around him were open fields, the corn newly planted, and the soybeans too. A number of fields were still brown, as they'd been plowed under for their planting, but mostly there was the high blue sky, with a few white clouds scattered near the horizon. He drove past the sign on the road that led down to the Barton home; it still said SEWING AND ALTERATIONS, even though the woman, Lydia Barton, who did the sewing and alterations had died many years ago. The Barton family had been outcasts, even in a town like Amgash, their extreme poverty and strangeness making this so. The oldest child, a man named Pete, lived alone there now, the middle child was two towns away, and the youngest, Lucy Barton, had fled many years ago, and had ended up living in New York City. Tommy had spent time thinking of Lucy. All those years she had lingered after...
    About the Author-
    • Elizabeth Strout is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge, the #1 New York Times bestseller My Name Is Lucy Barton, The Burgess Boys, a New York Times bestseller; Abide with Me, a national bestseller and Book Sense pick; and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker and O: The Oprah Magazine. Elizabeth Strout lives in New York City.
    Reviews-
    • Publisher's Weekly

      Starred review from February 20, 2017
      In her latest work, Strout achieves new levels of masterful storytelling. Damaged lives can be redeemed but, as she eloquently demonstrates in this powerful, sometimes shocking, often emotionally wrenching novel, the emotional scars can last forever. If some readers felt that Strout’s previous novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton, was too subtle and oblique about Lucy’s hellish childhood, here Strout reveals specific details of the horrible circumstances in which Lucy and her siblings were raised, as recollected by some of the inhabitants of Amgash, Ill., and the surrounding communities. Using the novel-in-stories format of Olive Kitteridge, Strout again proves Tolstoy’s observation that each family is unhappy in its own way. Except for one episode in which Lucy herself comes back for a tortured sibling reunion, she is the absent but omnipresent thread that weaves among the dozen or so characters who are have suffered secret misery and are longing for love and understanding. Some are lucky: one of the five Mumford sisters reunites with her runaway mother in Italy; another, an angry young girl, is suddenly able to see the way to a brighter future. Others, including a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and a rich woman who is complicit in her husband’s depraved behavior survive despite the baggage of tortured memories. “They had grown up on shame; it was the nutrient of their soil,” one character acknowledges. Strout’s prose is pared down, yet rich with implication. It is left for the character in the final episode, Lucy’s cousin Abel, who despite a similarly deprived childhood is now a happy and successful business executive, husband, father, and grandfather, to observe, in what may be his final moments, that “Anything was possible for anyone.”

    • Kirkus

      Starred review from January 15, 2017
      A radiant collection of stories linked to Strout's previous novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016, etc.), but moving beyond its first-person narration to limn small-town life from multiple perspectives.Lucy is long gone from Amgash, Illinois, but her absence looms large; now that she's a well-known author, the fact that her desperately poor family was despised and outcast has become an uncomfortable memory for the locals, including her damaged brother, Pete, and resentful sister, Vicky. Strout stakes out the collection's moral terrain in its first story, "The Sign." Tommy Guptill, who was kind to Lucy when she was a girl, still drops by the ramshackle Barton house to check on Pete even though it's quite likely that Pete's father was responsible for the fire that destroyed Tommy's dairy farm and reduced him to taking a job as a school janitor. Tommy is an extraordinarily good man who took the calamitous fire as a spiritual lesson in what was truly important and has lived by it ever since. Patty Nicely, protagonist of "Windmills," is another genuinely decent person who returns kindness for cruelty from Vicky's angry daughter, Lila, who, in addition to viciously insulting Patty, states the jaundiced town wisdom about Lucy: "She thinks she's better than any of us." That isn't so, we see in the story in which Lucy finally visits home ("Sister"), but there are plenty of mean-spirited people in Amgash who like to think so; it excuses their own various forms of uncaring. Class prejudice remains one of Strout's enduring themes, along with the complex, fraught bonds of family across the generations, and she investigates both with tender yet tough-minded compassion for even the most repulsive characters (Patty's nasty sister, Linda, and her predatory husband, Jay, in the collection's creepiest story, "Cracked"). The epic scope within seemingly modest confines recalls Strout's Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge (2008), and her ability to discern vulnerabilities buried beneath bad behavior is as acute as ever. Another powerful examination of painfully human ambiguities and ambivalences--this gifted writer just keeps getting better.

      COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

    • Library Journal

      January 1, 2017
      The New York Times best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning Strout pleases fans of her No. 1 LibraryReads pick, My Name Is Lucy Barton, by expanding its many characters' stories.

      Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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