Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I enjoyed the way this book was constructed. It’s a collection of stories about the residents of Crosby, Maine, dealing with their secrets and disappointments, their strengths, their passions, their despairs. The title character, Olive Kitteridge, a retired school teacher, appears in all the stories, although sometimes in only a minor way. Everyone in town knows her and she knows everyone else. Olive is the resident we come to understand the most. At times she can be mean and overly blunt, but she can also be patient, honest and caring. We see her grow through the stories, but at the same time, she is who she is.

Olive’s private view is that life depends on what she thinks of as “big bursts” and “little bursts.” Big bursts are things like marriage or children, intimacies that keep you afloat, but these big bursts hold dangerous, unseen currents. Which is why you need the little bursts as well: a friendly clerk at Bradlee’s, let’s say, or the waitress at Dunkin’ Donuts who knows how you like your coffee. Tricky business, really. (pg. 68-69)

The book is peopled with almost too real characters, individuals who endure no matter what life throws at them. Like I said, I enjoyed meeting all the characters, some I loved and truly felt for, some made me angry. It’s a sad book, so many tragedies, big and little. The disappointment for me, though, was that I never really felt connected to Olive. At times I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t like her or dislike her either for that matter.

I wanted to be swept away by this book, but I just wasn’t. Olive Kitteridge does have moments of insight that are poignant and thought-provoking, showing us life as it is, but overall this is not a book I’m going to remember.

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2009
First published March 25, 2008
270 pages

Challenges: 100+, A to Z

I borrowed my copy from the library and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.


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