Reading Matters

Elizabeth Strout’s new novel tops bestseller list

I woke one recent morning with a strong urge to call my mother.

I couldn’t, of course. She’s been gone since 2002. But the impulse is not unusual.

In fact, I think it’s universal, thanks to that mysterious bond between mothers and daughters. That very bond is Elizabeth Strout’s subject in her latest novel, “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” and I’ll bet her choice of subject is, in part, why the novel recently flew to the top of the bestseller list.

Strout taught in the MFA program at Queens College of Charlotte a few years back -- and she won the Pulitzer for her collection of linked stories, “Olive Kittridge.” The last time I saw her read, she wore her blonde hair up, delicate wisps flying here and yon, giving her an air of extravagant vulnerability.

But there’s nothing wispy about Strout’s writing. Nothing fly-away. It’s intelligent, intuitive and spot-on observant. In this novel, Lucy and her mom never talk about anything substantial, significant or even relevant. Yet, her mother’s mere presence can bring Lucy joy. “I was so happy. Oh, I was happy speaking with my mother this way!”

And then she wasn’t happy.

I predict Lucy and her mom will top the bestseller list for a long time to come.