Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Olive Kitteridge

Perusing the Kindle Lending Library last week led me to this Pulitzer Prize winner by Elizabeth Strout. Critically acclaimed and actually available to borrow? Count me in!


Good Reads' Synopsis: "In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge.

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 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 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."

What I Thought: At first, I wasn't sure what to make of this. The star player, Olive, comes in a bit slow and unassuming in the beginning. As the story unfolds, we learn she is a force to be reckoned with. All of Strout's characters are so well-developed that it feels each could be their own whole story and left me wanting more of them after their little vignette had ended. Although Olive does and says plenty of things that make her wholly unlikable, I think you'll feel differently about her by the end. If you are into beautifully woven, character-driven novels, you'll like this one a lot.

Rating; * * * 1/2

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