Lucy Barton lies in a New York hospital bed, seriously ill, watching the lights in the Chrysler Building. Complications have set in after an appendectomy and she is frightened and desperately missing her two young daughters. Her husband has called her mother to come, and she has. She is sitting beside the bed, not sleeping.

The two women have been estranged for years and the mother keeps the conversation light, circling between anecdotes about shared acquaintances from the past. This is a conversation where the important things are left unsaid, as they always have been....

The narrative is simply told in retrospect, after Lucy – a published and accomplished writer- has recovered from her illness and moved on to another phase of her life. Despite its 200 plus pages, the layout of the text provides a much shorter text, in brief chapters and surrounded by much blank paper. It is more novella than novel and it evokes the author’s earlier Olive Kitteridge in its knife-sharp approach to relationships. I’m bemused by reviews that focus on the love between mother and daughter. I find it far more unsettling and much darker than that.

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