Friday, September 24, 2010

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

I stayed up last night to finish "Olive Kitteridge," by Elizabeth Strout. Being unable to sleep without devouring the rest of the book is a reliable sign that I loved said book, which I did. It's a good thing, too, because I do have the annoying habit of not always liking books that get a lot of buzz or that are recommended to me by a lot of people whose opinions I trust. (See, e.g., "The Guernsey Literary...." and "Lovely Bones")

"Olive Kitteridge" is a series of thirteen interrelated stories set in a small town in Maine. They are organized in chronological order. In all of them, Olive is a character, although she sometimes appears as the main character and at other times is more peripheral. But throughout them all, we learn about another facet of Olive's character and personality. I tend not to gravitate toward short stories, but these are so beautifully written, and they are linked so well, that this really is an example of how a book can effortlessly straddle both the novel genre and the short story genre.

At first I didn't really like Olive. In one story in particular, she exhibits a cruelty that I found baffling. But as the story wore on, and her personality become more faceted, I came to like her. Strout does a great job of showing how Olive's experiences have shaped her, and it's hard not to admire Olive's moxie, even as Strout alludes to Olive's shortcomings as a person, particularly with regard to her role as wife and mother. By the end, I was rooting for Olive, and without including any spoilers, let's just say the last chapter/story nearly brought me to tears (in a good way).


  1. It is so funny to check the blog and see this post this morning. I was trying to stay up and finish Olive Kitteredge last night, too, but my eyes were just too bleary to continue reading. I got up this morning and finished it over breakfast, then came up and checked the blog. I had a moment of confusion when I saw the title of the latest post . . . "Wait, I haven't posted anything about it yet . . ."

    I found I didn't get pulled into the book until several chapters (stories) in, maybe even halfway. The last chapter left me really thinking about what I have to be grateful for in life.

  2. How wild! I guess the Plumsock Rd Book Club was just meant to be....

    Now can anyone do t-shirts for us? (;

  3. Hey, I'm just getting my cousin (a graphic design student) to design a logo for my business. Maybe a book club t-shirt could be next!

  4. As both of you -- but probably not the rest of the group -- know, I lived across the hall from Elizabeth Strout my junior year of college. We were both kind of reserved, and were cordial rather than friendly, but I love seeing her becoming more and more successful. I took the book with me this weekend, but had too many people to talk to to even open a book (possibly a first ever in my life). Now I want to read it more than ever.