Saturday, May 15, 2010

Olive Kitteridge

by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge was an especially fascinating read for me.  My mother highly recommended it, saying it was an interesting look at aging.  The book contains 13 stories of people living in a small town of America.  The thread of commonality through these divergent stories is Olive and her connection to the characters in the stories.

Olive is not a particularly likeable character and, unfortunately, I found myself strongly identifying with her.  At some point in my reading I called my mother and asked if Olive was going to come through at some point with some redeeming qualities.  Her answer was not reassuring.  As the book continued and Olive ages, I discovered we shared fewer similarities.  Olive has different demons and struggles in life than I do.  It's those struggles that caused our similarities to diminish over time.

What made this such a fascinating read for me was that my mother had liked the book so much that she shared it with a close friend who, after reading it, said she was going to buy a copy for each of her children.   So as I started reading I expected a book filled with tidbits of wisdom and sage advise.  I didn't find that and, even now that I've finished, I keep asking what it was that these two beautiful, older women saw in this book.

I was looking on Ken Follett's website today and liked what he had to say about the book:
I find it hard to say why this book is so utterly captivating. It consists of thirteen short stories set in a small town in New England, most of them featuring or at least mentioning the title character, an ornery schoolteacher with a patient husband and a disaffected son. The tone is low-key, although dramatic things happen—sudden medical emergencies, outbreaks of lunacy, and one gory murder.
Olive Kitteridge is captivating.  One of the things I really liked was the separate stories that told of interesting characters and the glimpses of Olive's life through these stories.


Sharla said...

Great review!

I loved this book so much. Like you, I too found myself identifying quite a bit with Olive, and I wasn't sure if I liked that too much.

The characters were interesting and at times the storyline took me completely by surprise.

The hospital scene? I was not expecting that.

raidergirl3 said...

Great review, and great to see you again.
Did you identify because she was a teacher? I liked how even though lots of students didn't really like her, they quoted her, or made reference to an encounter with her. I really liked Olive, the book and the character. It was such a unique writing way to showcase a character.

Here's my review

If you or your mom, is looking for another great book, with aging, try Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. It was delightful! My mom and I both agree.

Les said...

So good to see you posting again!!

I've heard good things about this book and need to get a copy so it can nag me to pick it up and give it a read. As I recall, Nan thoroughly enjoyed it. And I see Raidergirl mentioning Major Pettigrew's Last Stand in the comment above. My mom loved it!! I hope to get to it soon, too.