After a stimulating discussion about The Wicked Boy and Victorian crime, questions of sanity and morality (we really do have great discussions in this group!), the Field Notes Book Group chose the book for our January meeting: My Name Is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout.

A short and deceptively simple book by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, My Name Is Lucy Barton is narrated by Lucy, looking back on her experience when she was hospitalized for a long period and her estranged mother came to visit her for a period of days.  Neither Lucy nor her mother finds it easy to talk about the things that really matter, Lucy’s childhood and her mother’s life when Lucy and her siblings were growing up, so instead they circle around their truths, talking about other people Lucy knew in her childhood in a small rural community in Amgash, Illinois, and all the while other truths, about Lucy’s childhood, her marriage, her ambitions, and what estranged her from her family, lurk under the surface.  This well-written book is a fast read and yet the characters haunt you for some time after you finish reading it.

Come to the Field Library and pick up your copy of My Name is Lucy Barton, and then join us on January 20, 2018, at the Field Library Gallery from 11:00 to 12:30 for lively discussion and tasty refreshments.



Some authors just have a knack for writing the kinds of books people love. Maybe they’re the kinds of books that win awards, or maybe they’re the kinds of books that touch people’s hearts and turn into bestsellers.  Both Elizabeth Strout and Fredrik Backman fall into that category, and both of them have new books out that you want to check out if you’re a fan of their work.

anything is possible

Elizabeth Strout won a Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge, a collection of interconnected short stories that was later made into a television series starring Frances McDormand.  Her books focus on small town people and the connections between them, and her gift is to make those people come alive so you feel you know them better than people you know in real life, and she makes connections between one book and another that deepen the significance of both books.  Her newest book, Anything Is Possible, follows on the heels of her last book, My Name Is Lucy Barton, and takes place in the same town where Lucy was born and raised, which both Lucy and her mother discussed in the previous book.  Like other books by Strout, this book is in the form of interlinked stories, baring the souls of people bound together by shared pasts and shared presents, focusing on relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, siblings, and illuminating them all with Strout’s characteristic grace and beautiful writing.


Fredrik Backman’s breakout book was A Man Called Ove, which came out in America in 2014 and is still a favorite of book groups, the sort of book you have to put on hold to have a hope of being able to read from the library.  That book, about a seemingly curmudgeonly man who is gradually revealed to be a man in mourning who’s better than his outward appearance would suggest, has been an international bestseller and was followed up by Britt Marie Was Here and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, both of which have also been bestsellers about isolated people becoming part of the larger world.  His newest book, Beartown, is a little different, though some of his themes shine through here as well. Beartown is a small town slowly dying, the forests encroaching on its periphery, but the people in the town still have hope: their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals and might even win.  Unlike the classic sports movie about the underdogs who go on to win it all, in Beartown the critical match turns into something violent, traumatizing one young girl and spreading pain and trouble throughout the town.  Can the people pull together and find hope even in the aftermath of such a damaging event?  Don’t expect a sentimental happy ending, but rest assured that Backman will bring you a satisfying one.


By the way, for those doing the 2017 Reading Challenge, Beartown counts as a book about sports.  Just saying.



Just when you’ve finished all the new books you got over the holidays, and when you finally have some time to read (and the weather encourages you to stay inside), several bestselling and popular authors are coming out with new books that you’ll want to read as soon as they hit the shelves (and you can probably put them on hold in advance, too).

the guest room cover

Chris Bohjalian, author of bestsellers like Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls, starts the new year with a bang in his newest book, The Guest Room.  A man agrees to allow his younger brother to use his house for a bachelor party.  Seems harmless enough, right?  However, this is no ordinary bachelor party: by the end of it, two men lie dead in the living room, two women are on the run from the police and from gangsters, the house is turned into a crime scene, the man’s marriage is on the verge of breaking, and that’s just the beginning.  Bohjalian is as good at creating characters you care about as he is at setting them in fascinating situations and letting them try to work them out.  This should be a page-turner par excellence.

the bitter season cover

Fans of Tami Hoag’s mysteries will have reason to rejoice this month as well, with the newest book in her Kovac and Liska series, The Bitter Season.  As the book opens, the team has been split up, with Detective Nikki Liska working, at her own request, on the Cold Case Squad in Minneapolis, but missing the excitement of her past, while her former partner, Sam Kovac, is struggling with a new younger partner and a case involving a brutal and inexplicable double homicide.  Nikki’s focus on a 20 year old case of the death of a decorated sex crimes detective is frustrating to her because there’s no hope it will be solved now.  Across town, a young woman is about to get a blast from her past so dangerous it will bring both Nikki and Sam into her life.  There’s a reason Hoag’s books are bestsellers: she knows how to ratchet up suspense while giving readers characters to care about.

my name is lucy barton cover

Elizabeth Strout is known as the author of the bestselling Olive Kitteridge which won the Pulitzer prize and was made into an acclaimed miniseries starring Frances McDormand (both of which, by the way, are available in the library).  Her new book, My Name is Lucy Barton, promises to be another deep and powerful exploration of relationships within families.  The title character is a middle aged writer who’s been estranged from her mother for years, but when Lucy is recovering disturbingly slowly from what should have been a simple operation, Lucy’s mother comes to visit her. The past rests heavily on both characters, and Strout reveals them both, their secrets and their losses, with infinite compassion and insight.


Come to the library and see what people will be talking about!