Customer Reviews for

Olive Kitteridge

Average Rating 3.5
( 775 )
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5 Star

(235)

4 Star

(226)

3 Star

(163)

2 Star

(80)

1 Star

(71)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

32 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

Well-written and Moving

Elizabeth Strout has crafted a series of short stories revolving around Olive Kitteridge, a retired math teacher in a small town along Maine's coast. In many of the stories she is barely present, yet is always an influence on the characters. Like her or loathe her, th...
Elizabeth Strout has crafted a series of short stories revolving around Olive Kitteridge, a retired math teacher in a small town along Maine's coast. In many of the stories she is barely present, yet is always an influence on the characters. Like her or loathe her, the reader cannot be indifferent to Olive, or totally unsympathetic. One of the most intense and memorable stories is "A Different Road", about a traumatic experience in which Olive falls briefly in love with a most unlikely character. Olive's dysfunctional relationships with just about everyone, especially her husband and son, are often ineffably sad, but with occasional hints of redemption. Each story is completely absorbing.

posted by emmi331 on January 11, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

17 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

Irritating and dark.

I just don't understand why so many authors are leaning towards creating FICTION books like this. I have boredom and depression in my own life, I don't need to read a fictional story about it, thank you very much. I'm interested in escaping the real world, becoming in...
I just don't understand why so many authors are leaning towards creating FICTION books like this. I have boredom and depression in my own life, I don't need to read a fictional story about it, thank you very much. I'm interested in escaping the real world, becoming inspired, and taking away something meaningful from a book. Not only was this book gloomy, it skipped all around, introducting too many characters who I could care less about in the end, and elaborating on endless irrelevant situations that never seemed to tie together. Save your time and money and read Kristin Hannah's books for feel good stories that change you for the better.

posted by Ronrt1986 on July 8, 2010

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  • Posted January 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Well-written and Moving

    Elizabeth Strout has crafted a series of short stories revolving around Olive Kitteridge, a retired math teacher in a small town along Maine's coast. In many of the stories she is barely present, yet is always an influence on the characters. Like her or loathe her, the reader cannot be indifferent to Olive, or totally unsympathetic. One of the most intense and memorable stories is "A Different Road", about a traumatic experience in which Olive falls briefly in love with a most unlikely character. Olive's dysfunctional relationships with just about everyone, especially her husband and son, are often ineffably sad, but with occasional hints of redemption. Each story is completely absorbing.

    32 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 8, 2010

    Irritating and dark.

    I just don't understand why so many authors are leaning towards creating FICTION books like this. I have boredom and depression in my own life, I don't need to read a fictional story about it, thank you very much. I'm interested in escaping the real world, becoming inspired, and taking away something meaningful from a book. Not only was this book gloomy, it skipped all around, introducting too many characters who I could care less about in the end, and elaborating on endless irrelevant situations that never seemed to tie together. Save your time and money and read Kristin Hannah's books for feel good stories that change you for the better.

    17 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2010

    Great writing but depressing

    Well writen, well described characters. Sad stories that leave you feeling sadder than the characters in the end. I kept looking for what was holding the stories together and hoped for something that made it worthwhile to read. I suppose it is realistic and somewhat poetic. But it would have been nice to have seen one story end happily.

    15 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Full gamut of life experiences...

    A life span of Olive, a reserved school teacher, and her dysfunctional relationships in 13 short tales. The reader delves deeply into her very soul. The supporting characters, Henry Kitteridge, her husband, the complete opposite in character, who is an out going pharmacist, their son, Christopher, a podiatrist, daughter-in-law, Suzanne, all play their roles full of human emotion. These are multi-dimensional, complex, interesting, flawed characters,and how they develop over time. Living in a New England village, they run the gamut of life experiences, good and bad. This is an insightful, profound, moving and thought-provoking look into family conflicts and loss. No life is insignificant! Elizabeth Stout is a master!

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Well-written but pointless

    The characters are sad, dreary people. The writer has talent in describing scenes, characters, etc., but she desperately needs inspiration. Each story leaves you with a yucky feeling about life.

    12 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    Dismal Identification

    What is it about this dismal book that has moved into my mind and won't let go? Olive Kitteridge is a book about Olive, through 13 stories, all of which feature her to some extent. Some times she just mentioned; other times the story highlights her perspective and view of the world.

    And what a dreary view it is! Olive has almost no illusions about life, other than her faulty expectation that after her years of raising her child, being highly focused on his well-being from her perspective, he will automatically continue to be a central part of her life, and relate to her, living nearby, as she ages. Sure, it's nice if our offspring will feel inclined to be our buddies, as they grow up, but they don't owe this to us. . . and developing lives that are satisfying and not totally "offspring-focused" is our responsibility. Olive doesn't know this; she's not particularly sensitive in her focus on her only son, and she's often dismissive of the people around her.

    All of the stories address issues of relationship, but most often, failure of relationship and loneliness.

    See what I mean about this book being dismal? For much of the book, Olive is a middle-aged, unappealing, under-appreciated, blunt, unforgiving, almost joyless person, who works very hard, and occasionally reaches out to others in very touching, unexpectedly meaningful, but brutally honest, ways. Part of the problem with this book, though, and why I call it "dismal" is that it is very easy to identify with Olive, to some extent. (And thank God it is only to some extent!) It's also easy to see my friends, neighbors, and acquaintances in Olive, which just makes me sad for all of them.

    It's easy for Olive to zero in on the mis-guided and failed attempts of others to connect with one another, often risking nothing of themselves, and constructing lives with little meaning, or hope, and all too often betraying and abandoning those around them.

    Strangely, even the unlikable Olive works her way into your heart as you read this book. In her small town, people seem to accommodate to one another, often (but not always) looking out for each other, but just as likely enjoying casual meaness toward one another. As you read this book, you want Olive to get her efforts rewarded, you want her to be less lonely, but to also be, somehow, nicer, to those around her as well. And sometimes there's such a glimmer of hope for Olive; a better life seems just within reach, but, well, there goes Olive, being her usual Olive-self.

    Dismal though it is, I give this book a 5-star rating. It's beautifully written, and I found myself highlighting (in my nook) lots of sections, just for the language and the insights.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2009

    I DIDN'T GET IT

    THE BOOK WANDERS THROUGH MANY DIFFERENT CHARACTERS WITH OLIVE THREADING HER WAY. MANY THINGS DO NOT CONNECT. I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THIS BOOK.

    9 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2009

    Eliabeth Strout outdid herself on this one.

    The characters and the setting creates the story. It's impossible to not identify with her characters - whether it's Olive or any one of the folks she encounters. She's not a very likeable character but all the pieces of what she's made of, changes one's reaction. It's so easy to identify with her about events that we don't even think to put into words. The book is made up of vignettes that come together to form the story. Strout's writing style and use of language is outstanding. She knows how to touch the emotional spots that lay buried. I was glued to the book from start to finish. I highly recommend this book. Excellent choice for book club discussion.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2010

    Excellent! Read this!

    This book has everything - well developed and complex characters, interesting plot, great method of weaving the characters into the story, meaningful messages, but most of all, the writing is truly excellent. Don't fool yourself into thinking that good writing is easy to come by as a reader. A delicious, vivid book like this is a treat.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2010

    Stories reveal multidimensional character

    This book is a collection of short stories, something I usually avoid reading. However, using a central character to unify the stories was effective and gives readers an opportunity to see Olive from several points of view. She was a main character in some stories and peripheral in others. I applaud the author for creating a character who was not easily likeable. Sometimes she was crass and overbearing, at others caring, concerned even gentle. As the stories unfolded her complexity was revealed. By the end of the book, I found much to admire in Olive. She persevered through whatever came her way. The interwoven stories also illustrate how individual lives are intertwined in a small town.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Gem of a Book!

    I'm not sure I can write a review of this book that does it justice--it's truly a remarkable read. However, I can say that I have lately been quite an escapist in my reading, feeling inclined to read only hopeful and happy books and avoid stories that emphasize the enormous amount of pain that seems to exist in our world today. This book is not one of those "hopeful and happy" ones, at first glance. I had to read it for my book club, and though I loved the concept (a series of short stories featuring crusty Mainers), I was dismayed to find that every story stripped away the layers that hide our true selves and true lives from others, and revealed a lot of blackness underneath. There was some light and hope in the stories, such as the way three neighbors conspire to help a child and the love two find in the process in "Starving," but overall, the tone is neither light, nor happy. It is not, however, lacking in hope, and when I got to the end, I found that Strout had created a satisfying (and seemingly, realistic) balance between illustrating the sadness of our lives and throwing a light on the perfect beauty of finding kinship, joy, and comfort in spite of it. I highly recommend this book, especially to those who are "getting on in years" as a way of finding our own balanced views of old age, relationships, and the possibility of change and finding happiness in the midst of sorrow.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    Olive Kittridge:You want to hate her, but you will begrudgingly love this woman. A deeply complex woman, the author delves deeply into Olive's soul, you will be surprised at what you'll uncover.

    A book of seemingly disparate chapters at first, this stunningly beautiful story of the human soul comes together in a touching human way. Olive, her family, & her community are woven together in despair, courage, love, nastiness, mental illness, forgiveness, & family ties. It is the human condition in all it's complexity, messiness, & beauty. Yet it's told in a simple & touching way that draws the reader in. At times I held my breath, not knowing what would happen next; other times, I cried with Olive; & many times I wanted to scream at Olive in frustration. There's a little Olive in all of us.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2010

    Sweet read

    This brings back a time when neighbors were neighbors, and looked out for one another good or bad. Yet the stories remain relevant. I liked the approach of having one character showing influence in each chapter; sometimes being the main character and sometimes not. Very sweet without being sappy. Every emotion is covered here, without judgement. Character development was great! I would know them if I met them. Easy to read and hard to put down.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Olive is Olive

    This book started slow for me and every chapter I thought "sheesh this is a little depressing". But, the more I read, the more I was engrossed in this small town and the people who lived there. Each of the chapters (short stories) integrate Olive as either the main character or as a passerby and tell her story as well as the stories of other townsfolk. Olive comes alive in a sometimes indirect but always, poignant way. Olive Kitteredge will anger and infuriate as well as endear and move you. She is not a character to be reckoned with. By the end of the book I was cheering for Olive and wanted the best for her even after despising her for most of the story. Olive made me laugh and cry and I was sad to part with her by the end of the book.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Olive K is a Lemon

    I thought Olive Kitteridge was an okay book. I liked her husband Henry; however I wanted to smother Olive with a pillow. She was mean to Susan and she destroyed some her clothes. It also seemed like many people in Crosby Maine were depressed. I liked Pharmacy, Tulips, Basket, and Winter Concert. The Piano Player was a very depressing story. It was interesting to see how many lives were touched by Olive Kitteridge. It was too bad that she couldn't realize that former students were touched in a positive way; thereby gaining happiness from that. The bottom line is that Olive K was a bitter woman for much of her life.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Surprised by this "little" book...

    Ive seen this book for months, made a judgement that it was a lightweight feel good novel with a feisty older woman at its center, and avoided it.
    Wrong! Another reminder of what our "judgements" can keep us from enjoying. The writing in Olive Kitteridge is both sublime and spot on down to earth accurate. True, there is a feisty older woman at the heart of the book, but how limiting to leave her description as such. Her peceptions of the people in her small town, her own emotional agonies and delights are just two beautifully drawn aspects of humanity that are found in this book. The characters bring a life force to the reader that I am sure will resonate many times throughout the reading of this powerful, little book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2010

    Couldn't put it down, but left me not sure about what I thought.

    Excellent writing - the author made the people real. The characters are of all types I recognized. I read the book in just two days, and when I finished, I had the oddest feeling. I really wasn't sure if I liked it or not. The ending left me unresolved, which is the best way to describe it. I would recommend this but with the caveat to not expect anything - just enjoy the good writing and let the story unfold.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    Original writing - Olive Kitteridge

    I didn't realize when I bought this book that it was separate stories. However, they are not so separate, including Olive Kitteridge in each story.I did, indeed, come to care very much for her. Wonderful book!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    I loved this character even tho' I didn't want to!

    What a mass of contradictions in the character of Olive Kitteridge. In this series of short stories we see many, many aspects of her -- and everytime I thought I had her figured out, 'pegged', the author would reveal another side of Olive. She was loving and hateful, knowing and clueless, progressive and traditional, oblivious and self-aware. Olive Kitteridge reminded me of many women I knew in the early 60's with her need to keep up appearances and the seething frustration underneath -- and she's like no one I've ever met all at the same time. But, maybe, she's really all of us, trying to figure things out, keep up a good public face, keep our fears private, and still leave a mark on the world... I loved this book and I didn't expect to. I loved this character -- and I didn't want to. The writing is wonderful and the characters will stay with you -- what happened to them after their stories were finished? I will read this book again and recommend it to everyone.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2009

    A life spent

    This book will leave you reflecting on all of the ways that your life has or may have been used to impact others. It causes you to think about the interactions you have each day and how they may shape others.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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