Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky
Anything Is Possible, by Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth Strout, tells the stories and back stories of a group of residents in, or from, small town Amgash, Illinois. The stories illustrate how their lives intertwine and intersect, and how their pasts have affected their present.
Their stories are conflicting tales of hope, sadness, acceptance, and in some cases redemption, as these characters evolve from those pasts and build their lives the best way they know how.
Each chapter introduces you to a new resident, from Vietnam veteran Charlie Macauley who suffers from PTSD and a loveless marriage to a mother who left her cheating husband after her children were grown to find love with a younger man in Italy.
You also meet the Barton siblings — one of whom, Lucy Barton, was the main heroine of one of Strout’s earlier novels, “I Am Lucy Barton” — and learn of their heartbreaking childhood of cruelty and poverty.
The novel also contains a fair amount of sex and its varied role in many of the characters’ lives — from prostitution to homosexuality to sexual abuse to adultery.
Some fare better others, but one theme is constant — no matter how we deal with our past, or move on from it, it is always a part of us, shaping the people we eventually become.
Be forewarned: This book is not a very happy read, but it is a satisfying one as you witness the characters make peace with, and move beyond their personal tragedies and circumstances to overcome the negativity they’ve experienced in their lives.
I found myself reading this book at a faster pace than I usually read, because the writing flowed so well and so effortlessly, and the characters were such real people that anyone in any town might know. The only difference is that you wouldn’t know all their pasts or their secrets, which made me wonder, “How much do we really about know the people we know?”