Oh William!: A Novel (Hardcover)
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November 2021 Indie Next List
“With sparse and familiar prose, Elizabeth Strout tells the story of Lucy’s ex-husband, William, as he navigates late-in-life changes, revealing deeper truths about how past and present combine to make us who we are. A wonderful novel.”
— Courtney Flynn, Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Boston, MA
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • Time • NPR
“Elizabeth Strout is one of my very favorite writers, so the fact that Oh William! may well be my favorite of her books is a mathematical equation for joy. The depth, complexity, and love contained in these pages is a miraculous achievement.”—Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
I would like to say a few things about my first husband, William.
Lucy Barton is a writer, but her ex-husband, William, remains a hard man to read. William, she confesses, has always been a mystery to me. Another mystery is why the two have remained connected after all these years. They just are.
So Lucy is both surprised and not surprised when William asks her to join him on a trip to investigate a recently uncovered family secret—one of those secrets that rearrange everything we think we know about the people closest to us. What happens next is nothing less than another example of what Hilary Mantel has called Elizabeth Strout’s “perfect attunement to the human condition.” There are fears and insecurities, simple joys and acts of tenderness, and revelations about affairs and other spouses, parents and their children. On every page of this exquisite novel we learn more about the quiet forces that hold us together—even after we’ve grown apart.
At the heart of this story is the indomitable voice of Lucy Barton, who offers a profound, lasting reflection on the very nature of existence. “This is the way of life,” Lucy says: “the many things we do not know until it is too late.”
“Loneliness and betrayal, themes to which the Pulitzer Prize–winning Strout has returned throughout her career, are ever present in this illuminating character-driven saga. . . . Strout’s characters teem with angst and emotion, all of which [she] handles with a mastery of restraint and often in spare, true sentences. . . . It’s not for nothing that Strout has been compared to Hemingway. In some ways, she betters him.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Praise for Elizabeth Strout
“[Strout] illuminates both what people understand about others and what they understand about themselves.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Strout managed to make me love this strange woman I’d never met, who I knew nothing about. What a terrific writer she is.”—Zadie Smith
“Strout animates the ordinary with an astonishing force. . . . [She] makes us experience not only the terrors of change but also the terrifying hope that change can bring: she plunges us into these churning waters and we come up gasping for air.”—The New Yorker
“Writing of this quality comes from a commitment to listening, from a perfect attunement to the human condition, from an attention to reality so exact that it goes beyond a skill and becomes a virtue.”—Hilary Mantel
“Reading an Elizabeth Strout novel is like peering into your neighbor’s windows. . . . There is a nuanced tension in the novel, evoked by beautiful and detailed writing. Strout’s manifestations of envy, pride, guilt, selflessness, bigotry and love are subtle and spot-on.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Strout is a brilliant chronicler of the ambiguity and delicacy of the human condition.”—The Guardian