I finally got my hands on a copy of Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout and recognized this would be my New Title Tuesday recommendation.  Once again, Strout has created fully-fleshed characters who are seemingly as familiar as someone you see at the grocery but whose innermost thoughts are as complex as their backgrounds.  Strout writes as if she’s pin-pointing a flashlight on the characters’ inner pain and joy at the moment of the greatest and quietest intensity.

1 Anything isPublisher Summary: 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.

As with previous books, Strout’s stories in Anything is Possible connect to create a larger universe.  The characters are connected by their roots to the small town of Amgash, Illinois.

As many may know, Anything is Possible continues the story that began with My name is Lucy Barton but it is not dependant on it.  In an interview with Mary Ann Gwinn of the Seattle Times, Strout said,”When I was writing My name is Lucy Barton, when Lucy and her mother would chat about different people, I just got interested in those people. I would move to a different part of the table I write on and scribble different things on different pieces of paper about Mississippi Mary and the Nicely girls and other characters in the book.”   It is true though, that Lucy’s story generates a good deal of interest in the characters discussed in My name is Lucy Barton.  

Strout also said in her Seattle Times interview that she’s long been interested in the rural poor and social class.  Family secrets are also at the crux of much of Strout’s work.  Such as the chapter “Snow-Blind” when the Appleby siblings share the reason why their senile father is being forced to leave the nursing home with their sister, Annie, who moved away decades before. Annie sees the vulnerability on the faces of her brother and sister and observes, “But the truth was always there.  They had grown up on shame; it was the nutrient of their soil.”

Although there is much pain and sorrow in  Anything is Possible,  there is also reconciliation, grace and hope.  That, in combination with Strout’s impeccable writing skill, makes the book a blessing.

You can also read Anything is Possible as an ebook.

Happy reading, Susan C.

More by Stout:

1 Lucy Barton


My name is Lucy Barton Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters.



The Burgess Boys Catalyzed by a nephew’s thoughtless prank, a pair of brothers confront painful psychological issues surrounding the freak accident that killed their father when they were boys, a loss linked to a heartbreaking deception that shaped their personal and professional lives.


1 Olive Kitteridge


Olive Kitteridge Thirteen tales–linked by the overarching presence of brusque junior high math teacher Olive Kitteridge– present a portrait of ordinary coastal Mainers living lives of quiet grief intermingled with flashes of human connection.



1 Abide with me


Abide With Me After the tragic death of his young wife, Reverend Tyler Caskey, a New England minister, struggles to hold together his own life, his family, and his town, while dealing with his personal anger, grief, and loss of faith.


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