Olive Kitteridge

Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I rate this on “liking” the book or the characters, it might be 3 stars. If I rate it on how much it will stay with me and I’ll be thinking about Olive and other characters it might be 4 or 5. And if I rate it on literary merit, the use of language and how the stories intertwine to create a whole, maybe 5. So I’ll compromise with 4. Olive is not an easy person to like. Sometimes she has a heart of gold, and is almost painfully empathetic and compassionate. But she has a mean streak and at times a selfishness that will always be her undoing. She is raw, crusty, and as she describes herself, she has the “soul of a peasant.” I think of peasants as being simple in their approach to life. Olive is anything but. You’ll get to know her through her own story, her son, her students, and her neighbors. Each story is complete in itself, but taken all together has a richness that is greater than the individual parts. At the same time, each story will make you think about life, love, security, and isolation, and how we cope with things that seem to be out of our control even if they are of our own making.

Book Description: At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer’s eyes, it’s in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama – desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love. At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life – sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition – its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires. 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner in the Letters, Drama and Music category.

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