Read an excerpt from
The Children's Crusade
by Ann Packer


Bill Blair received his discharge from the Navy on a September morning in 1954. He’d served on hospital ships off Inchon and Pusan, Korea, for two years and then completed his service at the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, a cluster of wooden barracks on a grassy hillside in Oakland, California.


On the afternoon of his discharge, he borrowed a convertible and headed across the Bay Bridge, an unplanned adventure that seemed like just the ticket for a fellow with some time on his hands. The sky was the same lovely shade of blue as the hyacinths in the bridal bouquet at his sister’s wedding, four months earlier. He’d gotten a weekend’s leave and made it home to Michigan just in time for a pre-wedding family breakfast at which his years of service were so celebrated that the very thing he’d sought from the trip, a return to the life he’d known before open wounds and gangrenous limbs and amputations, slipped finally and irrevocably out of his grasp. Outside the church, he stood with his parents in his dress blues and felt as lonely as he ever had in his life.



Read an excerpt from 
My Name is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout

There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks. This was in New York City, and at night a view of the Chrysler Building, with its geometric brilliance of lights, was directly visible from my bed. During the day, the building’s beauty receded, and gradually it became simply one more large structure against a blue sky, and all the city’s buildings seemed remote, silent, far away. It was May, and then June, and I remember how I would stand and look out the window at the sidewalk below and watch the young women — my age — in their spring clothes, out on their lunch breaks; I could see their heads moving in conversation, their blouses rippling in the breeze. I thought how when I got out of the hospital I would never again walk down the sidewalk without giving thanks for being one of those people, and for many years I did that — I would remember the view from the hospital window and be glad for the sidewalk I was walking on. 




In Conversation: Ann Packer & Elizabeth Strout

Tuesday April 5, 2016
07:00 pm

Tags: Event





New York Times bestselling authors Ann Packer and Elizabeth Strout joined us to discuss their new novels that center around the powerful influence of families on our lives. The Children's Crusade  (Packer) is the compassionate and nuanced story of the Blairs and their home in the yet-to-be-discovered Silicon Valley, and how family can be both a comfort and a destructive force. Strout's My Name is Lucy Barton tells the story of a reunion between a mother and daughter that uncovers long-buried tensions. 

About The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer 


“In The Children’s Crusade, Ann Packer flawlessly executes the most daring, difficult and exhilarating feat in the novelist’s repertoire.” -- Michael Chabon


From New York Times bestselling, award-winning author Ann Packer, a “tour de force family drama” (Elle) that explores the secrets and desires, the remnant wounds and saving graces of one California family, over the course of five decades.

Bill Blair finds the land by accident, three wooded acres in a rustic community south of San Francisco. The year is 1954, long before anyone will call this area Silicon Valley. Struck by a vision of his future family, Bill buys the property and proposes to Penny Greenway, a woman whose yearning attitude toward life appeals to him. In less than a decade they have four children. Yet Penny is a mercurial housewife, overwhelmed and undersatisfied, chafing at the conventions confining her.

Years later, the three oldest Blair children, adults now and still living near the family home, are disrupted by the return of the youngest, whose sudden presence sets off a struggle over the family’s future. One by one, they tell their stories, which reveal Packer’s “great compassion for her characters, with their ancient injuries, their blundering desires. The way she tangles their perspectives perfectly, painfully captures the tumult of selves within a family” (MORE Magazine).



About My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout


“There is not a scintilla of sentimentality in this exquisite novel. Instead, in its careful words and vibrating silences, My Name Is Lucy Bartonoffers us a rare wealth of emotion, from darkest suffering to—‘I was so happy. Oh, I was happy’—simple joy.”—Claire Messud, The New York Times Book Review


A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. Her bestselling novels, including Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, have illuminated our most tender relationships. Now, in My Name Is Lucy Barton, this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all—the one between mother and daughter.

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. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.



Ann Packer is the acclaimed author of two collections of short fiction, Swim Back to Me and Mendocino and Other Stories, and two bestselling novels, Songs Without Words and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, which received the Kate Chopin Literary Award, among many other prizes and honors. She lives in San Carlos, CA.


Elizabeth Strout is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge, as well as The Burgess Boys, a New York Times bestseller; Abide with Me, a national bestseller; and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker and O: The Oprah Magazine. Elizabeth Strout lives in New York City. Her latest book is My Name is Lucy Barton