Olive Kitteridge: Fiction

Olive Kitteridge: Fiction

by Elizabeth Strout


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WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • The beloved first novel featuring Olive Kitteridge, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah’s Book Club pick Olive, Again
“Fiction lovers, remember this name: Olive Kitteridge. . . . You’ll never forget her.”—USA Today
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post Book World USA Today San Francisco Chronicle Chicago Tribune Seattle Post-Intelligencer People Entertainment Weekly The Christian Science Monitor The Plain Dealer The Atlantic Rocky Mountain News Library Journal
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 of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; 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.
The inspiration for the Emmy Award–winning HBO miniseries starring Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, and Bill Murray

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400062089
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/25/2008
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 21,939
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Strout is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Olive Kitteridge, winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Olive, Again, an Oprah’s Book Club pick; Anything Is Possible, winner of the Story Prize; My Name is Lucy Barton, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize; The Burgess Boys, named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and NPR; Abide with Me, a national bestseller; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the International Dublin Literary Award, and the Orange Prize. 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.


Brooklyn, New York

Date of Birth:

January 6, 1956

Place of Birth:

Portland, Maine


B.A., Bates College, 1977; J.D., Syracuse College of Law, 1982

Read an Excerpt

For many years Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summertime roads, when the wild raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy. Retired now, he still wakes early and remembers how mornings used to be his favorite, as though the world were his secret, tires rumbling softly beneath him and the light emerging through the early fog, the brief sight of the bay off to his right, then the pines, tall and slender, and almost always he rode with the window partly open because he loved the smell of the pines and the heavy salt air, and in the winter he loved the smell of the cold.
The pharmacy was a small two-story building attached to another building that housed separately a hardware store and a small grocery. Each morning Henry parked in the back by the large metal bins, and then entered the pharmacy’s back door, and went about switching on the lights, turning up the thermostat, or, if it was summer, getting the fans going. He would open the safe, put money in the register, unlock the front door, wash his hands, put on his white lab coat. The ritual was pleasing, as though the old store—with its shelves of toothpaste, vitamins, cosmetics, hair adornments, even sewing needles and greeting cards, as well as red rubber hot water bottles, enema pumps—was a person altogether steady and steadfast. And any unpleasantness that may have occurred back in his home, any uneasiness at the way his wife often left their bed to wander through their home in the night’s dark hours—all this receded like a shoreline as he walked through the safety of his pharmacy. Standing in the back, with the drawers and rows of pills, Henry was cheerful when the phone began to ring, cheerful when Mrs. Merriman came for her blood pressure medicine, or old Cliff Mott arrived for his digitalis, cheerful when he prepared the Valium for Rachel Jones, whose husband ran off the night their baby was born. It was Henry’s nature to listen, and many times during the week he would say, “Gosh, I’m awful sorry to hear that,” or “Say, isn’t that something?”
Inwardly, he suffered the quiet trepidations of a man who had witnessed twice in childhood the nervous breakdowns of a mother who had otherwise cared for him with stridency. And so if, as rarely happened, a customer was distressed over a price, or irritated by the quality of an Ace bandage or ice pack, Henry did what he could to rectify things quickly. For many years Mrs. Granger worked for him; her husband was a lobster fisherman, and she seemed to carry with her the cold breeze of the open water, not so eager to please a wary customer. He had to listen with half an ear as he filled prescriptions, to make sure she was not at the cash register dismissing a complaint. More than once he was reminded of that same sensation in watching to see that his wife, Olive, did not bear down too hard on Christopher over a homework assignment or a chore left undone; that sense of his attention hovering—the need to keep everyone content. When he heard a briskness in Mrs. Granger’s voice, he would step down from his back post, moving toward the center of the store to talk with the customer himself. Otherwise, Mrs. Granger did her job well. He appreciated that she was not chatty, kept perfect inventory, and almost never called in sick. That she died in her sleep one night astonished him, and left him with some feeling of responsibility, as though he had missed, working alongside her for years, whatever symptom might have shown itself that he, handling his pills and syrups and syringes, could have fixed.
“Mousy,” his wife said, when he hired the new girl. “Looks just like a mouse.”
Denise Thibodeau had round cheeks, and small eyes that peeped through her brown-framed glasses. “But a nice mouse,” Henry said. “A cute one.”
“No one’s cute who can’t stand up straight,” Olive said. It was true that Denise’s narrow shoulders sloped forward, as though apologizing for something. She was twenty-two, just out of the state university of Vermont. Her husband was also named Henry, and Henry Kitteridge, meeting Henry Thibodeau for the first time, was taken with what he saw as an unself-conscious excellence. The young man was vigorous and sturdy-featured with a light in his eye that seemed to lend a flickering resplendence to his decent, ordinary face. He was a plumber, working in a business owned by his uncle. He and Denise had been married one year.
“Not keen on it,” Olive said, when he suggested they have the young couple to dinner. Henry let it drop. This was a time when his son—not yet showing the physical signs of adolescence—had become suddenly and strenuously sullen, his mood like a poison shot through the air, and Olive seemed as changed and changeable as Christopher, the two having fast and furious fights that became just as suddenly some blanket of silent intimacy where Henry, clueless, stupefied, would find himself to be the odd man out.
But standing in the back parking lot at the end of a late summer day, while he spoke with Denise and Henry Thibodeau, and the sun tucked itself behind the spruce trees, Henry Kitteridge felt such a longing to be in the presence of this young couple, their faces turned to him with a diffident but eager interest as he recalled his own days at the university many years ago, that he said, “Now, say. Olive and I would like you to come for supper soon.”
He drove home, past the tall pines, past the glimpse of the bay, and thought of the Thibodeaus driving the other way, to their trailer on the outskirts of town. He pictured the trailer, cozy and picked up—for Denise was neat in her habits—and imagined them sharing the news of their day. Denise might say, “He’s an easy boss.” And Henry might say, “Oh, I like the guy a lot.”
He pulled into his driveway, which was not a driveway so much as a patch of lawn on top of the hill, and saw Olive in the garden. “Hello, Olive,” he said, walking to her. He wanted to put his arms around her, but she had a darkness that seemed to stand beside her like an acquaintance that would not go away. He told her the Thibodeaus were coming for supper. “It’s only right,” he said.
Olive wiped sweat from her upper lip, turned to rip up a clump of onion grass. “Then that’s that, Mr. President,” she said. “Give your order to the cook.”
On Friday night the couple followed him home, and the young Henry shook Olive’s hand. “Nice place here,” he said. “With that view of the water. Mr. Kitteridge says you two built this yourselves.”
“Indeed, we did.”
Christopher sat sideways at the table, slumped in adolescent gracelessness, and did not respond when Henry Thibodeau asked him if he played any sports at school. Henry Kitteridge felt an unexpected fury sprout inside him; he wanted to shout at the boy, whose poor manners, he felt, revealed something unpleasant not expected to be found in the Kitteridge home.
“When you work in a pharmacy,” Olive told Denise, setting before her a plate of baked beans, “you learn the secrets of everyone in town.” Olive sat down across from her, pushed forward a bottle of ketchup.
“Have to know to keep your mouth shut. But seems like you know how to do that.”
“Denise understands,” Henry Kitteridge said.
Denise’s husband said, “Oh, sure. You couldn’t find someone more trustworthy than Denise.”
“I believe you,” Henry said, passing the man a basket of rolls. “And please. Call me Henry. One of my favorite names,” he added. Denise laughed quietly; she liked him, he could see this.
Christopher slumped farther into his seat.
Henry Thibodeau’s parents lived on a farm inland, and so the two Henrys discussed crops, and pole beans, and the corn not being as sweet this summer from the lack of rain, and how to get a good asparagus bed.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” said Olive, when, in passing the ketchup to the young man, Henry Kitteridge knocked it over, and ketchup lurched out like thickened blood across the oak table. Trying to pick up the bottle, he caused it to roll unsteadily, and ketchup ended up on his fingertips, then on his white shirt.
“Leave it,” Olive commanded, standing up. “Just leave it alone, Henry. For God’s sake.” And Henry Thibodeau, perhaps at the sound of his own name being spoken sharply, sat back, looking stricken.
“Gosh, what a mess I’ve made,” Henry Kitteridge said.
For dessert they were each handed a blue bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream sliding in its center. “Vanilla’s my favorite,” Denise said.
“Is it,” said Olive.
“Mine, too,” Henry Kitteridge said.

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Olive Kitteridge: Fiction 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Olive Kitteridge is subtitled a 'novel in stories'. Reading this book is like looking through a family photo album. Each short story is a snapshot portraying life in small town Maine. Strout expertly constructs each snapshot for us with her beautiful prose, adding layer upon layer, and often adding a slight twist at the end of the story which completely changes the picture we thought we were seeing into something we weren¿t quite expecting at all. Olive is of course our title character but she isn¿t always the main character in each short story. In those stories where she is our main character, we get to spend a little time in the head of a woman who is struggling mightily to make sense of her life as she grows older and feels the world moving on without her. In some of the other stories Olive plays a secondary character, in others she¿s merely an extra in the scene, and in still others she¿s nothing more than a memory, but she does manage to show up, in some way, in each one. These other stories serve not only to introduce us to some of the other people in the town but also to show us the other sides of Olive¿s character, thereby letting the reader see that the way we see ourselves is not always the same way that others see us.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Olive Kitteridge appears in every story in this book, though she is generally not the main character. What a brilliant book! I loved the close examination of people and their relationships within a small town. A book I¿m encouraging everyone I meet to read.
miyurose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this. Being from Maine, I felt like it was very authentically 'Maine', from the speech patterns and atmosphere to phrases like 'Jeezum Crow', which I haven¿t heard myself in at least 13 years. Add to that Olive¿s occasional resemblance to my great-grandmother, and in a lot of ways reading this book was like visiting home. It¿s not a particularly happy book, though there is a little bit of light at the end. Sometimes Olive is the center of the story, sometimes she¿s a bit player, and sometimes she¿s just walking by, but she always makes a mark. Olive¿s life is hard, and there¿s so much you really don¿t know about her, which you realize during her heart-wrenching visit to her son¿s home in New York. I think the thing that sticks with me the most is the tangible love between Olive and Henry, which is most apparent when she calls to talk to him at the nursing home and maintains her one-sided conversation. Overall, it¿s just a beautifully constructed collection of stories.
jhedlund on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Superb writing and yet not Pulitzer caliber, imho. It really seemed more like a series of short stories rather than "a novel in short stories" as it is billed. Yet, I love Olive as the character. An irascible, overweight, aging, small-town woman is not usually given so much depth and attention in literature. If Olive's "story" hadn't been interrupted by other vignettes of townsfolk who were only barely touched by her, I'm sure I would have enjoyed the book more.
bell7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This year's Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction is composed of 13 short stories, most of which are set in a small town in Maine. Though each story can be read on its own, taken together, they tell the stories of several people's lives, most notably that of Olive Kitteridge herself. All of the characters are richly drawn, and several are unforgettable. Many of the stories wrenched my heart while I was reading, but they were also full of hope and spirit.The book as a whole was well-crafted, from the placement of stories (which was not always chronological) to the fluid writing to the carefully chosen titles. I found myself torn after each story, wanting both to pause and ponder and at the same time to keep reading to learn what happens to Olive and Henry and Christopher and their neighbors and friends. Highly recommended.
arielgm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel takes the form of thirteen linked narratives set in a small coastal town in Maine, in which characters¿ lives intersect, weave in and out, or exist only as hearsay to one another. The only thing that all the stories have in common is that the title character, Olive Kitterage, appears in all of them: sometimes as a central figure, sometimes glimpsed in passing, or in the thoughts of her husband Henry. This narrative approach results in the most effective portrayal of a Woman in the World that I have read for a long time. Our early impressions of Olive are fleeting, through the eyes of others who, apart from Henry, are not her intimates. In this way, a complex and sometimes contradictory picture of her is created. Sure, a first person narrative would give a more consistent, accurate and personal view of Olive ¿ as she sees herself. The shifting perspectives (temporal & individual) that we get correlate so much more with how individuals experience one another in `real life¿. The lack of an extensive subjective narrative leaves gaps and questions that both add to the complexity of the portrayal and leave the other characters¿ stories room to breathe. We spiral closer and closer to the subject as the narrative progresses, until we are with Olive alone, reflecting on a life.Is Olive a likeable character? As the school maths teacher (latterly retired) she is known to everyone in town; though she does not seem to have any close friends. She has a short temper and a sharp tongue, most notably when dealing with her son. She seems to be respected, not least for her honesty ¿ but she seems to be disappointed to the point of bitterness by the people around her. Perhaps a better question would be, does Olive like herself?
carmarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much! It was somewhat of a journey to get to know Olive, and throughout the course of the book you do. With the 'other' stories, where Olive makes a short appearance, or someone mentions her, you really see the impact that she has on others. She basically says that no one cares about her or will notice her, but in small ways they all did. Great story.
smcwl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Because the language and characters are so good, this book is enjoyable to read even though the scenes portrayed are sometimes depressing, and even though I usually prefer novels to short stories. The character, Olive, is portrayed through a number of stories which center on different characters who live in her New England town. This at times reminded me of Salinger's stories, in that some of the minor characters in one story appear later in their own stories. This creates a loose web of relationships and shows different views of the characters. I had not read anything by Elizabeth Strout before, but this book makes me want to read more of her writing.
mojomomma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is written more like short stories than a novel. Olive becomes the central character around which all the other stories are formed, but she isn't really the "main character." In some stories, she is merely mentioned and in others, she figures prominently. Olive is outspoken and gruff, but caring in her way. We see her influence on her husband, her son, her fellow teachers and her students and others in town as she ages. Olive's thoughts on lonliness and widowhood are right on.
briantomlin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The most striking this about this novel is its structure: it is a landscape novel with the title character as a running theme or motif as a constant among thirteen stories. This landscape is lonely; each character essentially lives life within him or herself, despite living in a close, small Maine community. The narrative voice is strangely detached, heightening the sense that the characters are separate from one another. The reader is therefore kept at an emotional distance. Death is a frequent visitor to the characters, and marriages are presented as mostly contentious and negative.A nonlinear, nonchronogical narrative structure must be built with extra care so as not to confuse the reader. Strout reveals this as the greatest strength of this work: by keeping the narrative voice simple and clear, she avoids the complexity trap that has befallen so many experiemental storytellers. Jumps in time are kept to a manageable number, and are cleverly elucidated.Of all of the different interpretations of loss and pain that are portrayed, it its Olive Kitteridge herself that, surprisingly, emerges as the most whole. The reader encounters different views of her from various perspectives as other characters give their views of her. We see her argue with her husband, son, and commit childish acts. But it is the revelation of who she is that adds depth and push to stories that otherwise would have a tendency to get sleepy. Olive is the type of character that leaves an impact far greater than her personality or actions might suggest.The mature, embittered woman encountered early on becomes more so by the end, only the reader comes to understand Olive better by seeing different angles of who she is. Elizabeth Strout achieves the coveted feat of making us like an unlikable character , mainly by showing that Olive Kitteridge is human just like we are.
mdexter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This melancholy collection of short stories set in coastal Maine centers on Olive Kitteridge, a math teacher in the local high school. While Olive isn¿t the central character in all of the stories, she is present throughout . We see her from her own perspective but also from the perspective of others around her. When we first meet her, in ¿Pharmacy,¿ she is hardly appealing. Here she is the shrewish wife of the gentle local pharmacist. But later, in ¿Starving,¿ we find her crying for an anorexic young girl and in ¿Incoming Tide¿ she inadvertently comforts a suicidal young man. And Olive, the misunderstood mother, aches for the loss of her son. There is more to Olive than meets the eye. In fact, there is more to all of Strout¿s characters than meets the eye. These New Englanders manage their lives stoically, saying little to each other of the pain that lies underneath. These stories get at the heart of relationship, what it means to live and love over many years. Beautifully written, some are painful to read, they feel so true in their description of human frailties. It is understandable why this quiet book won the Pulitzer Prize. It will stay with you for a long time. Highly recommended.
sonyau on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure, after reading this book, whether one must be extraordinarily tough or especially receptive to the more tender and wrenching moments of long lives lived, for this text requires both. E. Strout has brought to life an entire town (and thus a gamut of human experience), showing (and telling) the reader the characters' secret desires, regrets, and hopes. There are some books that cannot help but show us how to live, and not in a didactic or preachy way. Olive Kitteridge has in its folds the very heart of love amidst griefs and missteps. This book would be very good for a book group discussion.
audryh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
05 '09 Narrative chapters about various people in the communuity of Cosby, Maine weave into novel-like book, with Olive appearing in each life. Though each character has sadness or depression, love seems to come into play and the awareness of the beauty of life. Enjoy life as you live it!
vsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Couldn't get into it, in spite of liking character-driven fiction, linked collections of stories (as this is), and loving anything set in Maine. I think the characterization of New Englanders was a bit cliche and thus annoying. Felt like the author trafficked a bit in "types" as opposed to creating real, vital characters. That said, she's clearly a giflted wrter. Just maybe not my cup of tea.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book is made up of 13 different stories, strung together to create a look into the life of Olive Kitteridge. Olive isn't your typical main female character in a fiction book. She's not someone you immediately fall in love with. She is aloof and at times distant. She is someone who is respected, but not always liked. I really enjoyed the way Strout wrote around Olive. The stories, all set in a small town in Maine, follow various people, but their lives all touch Olive's in some way. Sometimes the stories focus on Olive, but often she is just a minor character. This book was a good read for many reasons.
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A collection of short stories, in each of which the title character plays a role, usually the main character. Through the development of each character in the stories, Strout shows us life as many people know it. Emphasizing the challenges faced by Olive and many other residents of Crosby, Maine, we see people who face life's tragedies, frustrations, and disappointments and find that there is hope and joy in this world. Strout is terrifically adept at developing this theme. I loved it.
Schmerguls on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a novel made up of short stories, many of which relate to the eponymous character, who is given to behavior whch causes one to alternately admire and dislike her. The events occur in a coastal town in Maine, which seems to be a town where everybody knows eveybody, but a lot of not good things go on: adultery, incest, drug terrorists, etc. I guess the reason I gave the book four stars instead of 3 and a half is because Olive's feeling about George W. Bush are just like mine.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An exquisitely written book of stories about life in small town coastal Maine. Each story could be a stand-alone, but Olive Kitteridge, a strong, opinionated, stoic, often unhappy woman appears in each story. No spoilers here, but her story and that of her husband and only son are so well-written that you don't have to like her to love the book. The writing is clean, crisp, and you can smell the pines while you read. 4 1/2 stars.
Brianna_H on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written, carefully constructed, touching, meditative, and reflective are words that come to mind when attempting to describe Elizabeth Strout's short story collection, Olive Kitterage. Olive is the common thread in each of the stories, however, not always the protagonist or focus. Each story delves into the featured characters' inner lives and thoughts as they navigate the sometimes tragic sometimes mundane, but always difficult, life events and situations most people encounter. Each carefully crafted sentence in Olive Kitterage reveals something deep and telling about the characters. In one story, there is Olive on her beloved son¿s wedding day, sitting in her new daughter-in-law¿s bedroom meditating on how her son could have married such a cold and harsh woman, whom Olive can only think of as ¿Dr. Sue¿. In a impulsive moment of passive-aggressiveness, Olive runs a marker down one of Dr. Sue¿s sweaters and steals her left shoe. Strout does such a masterful job of depicting Olive and describing her thoughts and feelings, that the reader empathizes with her, rendering this slightly batty behavior utterly understandable. Therein lies Strout¿s remarkable talent. The reader is able to relate to people, behavior or situations that might initially seem foreign or incomprehensible. In reading each story, the reader learns a little about human nature. One can't help but think that reading Olive Kitterage gives one a better understanding of human nature and behavior. Elizabeth Strout exemplifies natural writing talent at its best. Fans of Claire Messud¿s writing style will find themselves utterly entranced by Olive Kitterage and Elizabeth Strout's masterful story telling ability.
rosalita on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The subtitle of "Olive Kitteridge" is "A Novel in Stories." It is an unusual construction, and one that tells the reader rather more than the main title. The key is that while the book is called "Olive Kitteridge," the book is not necessarily "about" Olive Kitteridge. In some of the stories, Olive makes a mere cameo appearance, and other inhabitants of the small coastal town in Maine take center stage. Strout crafts Olive's personality one vignette at a time, presenting the reader by the end of the book with a portrait of a complex, sometimes unlikeable woman who nonetheless appeals to a reader's compassion. As much as I heartily disliked the loud, rude, overbearing Olive we first encounter in the opening story, Pharmacy, my heart ached for her shame and embarrassment later in A Different Road. In the end, the subtitle has it right: Strout has given us a comprehensive picture of a very complex and imperfect human.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout was a novel comprised of thirteen short stories about people living in rural Maine. Several of the stories were based on the title character, but many of the stories only showed us a glimpse of Olive. From any perspective, Strout provided her readers with an enjoyable cast of characters and their life stories.Olive was a retired teacher, married to Henry, and the mother of one son, Christopher. As a teacher at the same middle school for years, she had the rare opportunity to know most of her neighbors through school. Olive was flawed, often depicted as angry, condescending and sharp-tongued. However, in other chapters, Olive showed many favorable characteristics, helping her former students and fellow townspeople in small but significant ways.Through this quilt of stories, the readers ¿ and Olive ¿gleaned lessons of loving and living. One of my favorite thoughts from Olive Kitteridge was at the very end: ¿¿that love was not to be tossed away on a platter with others that got passed around again. No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn¿t choose it.¿ Though Olive¿s life story, I learned something about my own life and choices (good and bad) that I¿ve made. The character of Olive Kitteridge with her detestable moments in one chapter and her tender moments in another made her real and alive to me. She was a cantankerous old lady with a heart of gold. Indeed, she will go down as one of my favorite literary characters.If you enjoyed the structure of Winesburg, Ohio or the small-town writing style of Richard Russo, then grab Olive Kitteridge. But even if you don¿t, grab this book anyway. I think most readers of contemporary women¿s fiction can find something to like in Olive Kitteridge (and I bet it will be Olive herself).
smallwonder56 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've often told friends that I would actually know myself best if I could do "personality triangulation"--see myself through the eyes of friends and people who know me. The stories in this book reflect many aspects of Olive Kitterage--both good and bad. The reader gets to see how much she loves her son, and how much damage he feels she's done to him. You see her many kindnesses to former students, and her harsh opinions about people she encounters. Ultimately, Olive is like all of us, a mixture of good and bad, annoying and inspiring. I loved "finding" her and her path through life in each story. It was the best sort of scavenger hunt. I love authors who show rather than tell, and Elizabeth Strout has done that exceptionally well.
eejjennings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this wonderful book as part of LIbraryThing's Early Reviewers program. The book takes its title from the main character Olive Kitteridge, a former teacher in her small Maine town. The reader becomes acquainted with Olive through a series of short stories, each of which feature her as a main or minor character, as she interacts with and is remembered by others in town. This allows the author to develop Olive's character so fully that I felt as if I knew her when I was done reading the book.Olive is quite a tall woman with strong emotions and outspoken opinions about almost everything and everybody. She does not suffer fools gladly and consequently many in town are intimidated by her. Since there is little dramatic arc in this novel, it could almost be called more of a character study. I loved this book because I felt as if I was getting to know this complex woman in a very natural way, starting with the superficial external qualities and gradually becoming acquainted with her innermost thoughts and feelings. I was sorry to finish reading this book because I kind of miss old Olive and wonder what she's up to these days.However, as we see in various of the stories in this book, Olive has a big heart and cares strongly for her friends, family and former students. She just can't express her love, so she is often misunderstood.
emcelroy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this collection of stories that sometimes directly involved the character, Olive, or mentioned in her passing. While she was not the most sympathetic character, I grew to understand a little of what made her tick. The author did an excellent job of weaving together these stories and providing a variety of characters who often weren't very happy or facing the reality of growing old or losing something/someone close to them.
JGoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Elizabeth Strout puts together a series of thirteen short stories to paint a picture of one woman, Olive Kitteridge, in her new novel. Olive is a main character in some of the stories, a minor player in others. Combined, they present a convincing portrait of a woman with both strengths and flaws. The multiple points of view help the reader see the many facets of Olive¿s personality, and how her life impacts others. As a novel it is strong, yet each story is beautifully written, and could stand alone. Strout is a keen observer of humanity. She creates very three dimensional characters and gives us a very real glimpse into their lives. Highly recommended.