• Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
• Paperback: 270 pages
• Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008
• ISBN: 0812971833
• Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction
• Recommended For: Anyone who enjoys well written fiction; stories that reflect upon the different stages of life and the highs and lows associated with those stages.
Quick Review: Olive Kitteridge teaches us that we very much do make a difference in the life of every person we encounter in life. For this reason, Strout’s novel is important for any and all readers.
How I Got Here: Honestly, I probably would have never read this book as I am not a huge fan of adult contemporary fiction. However, I signed up for the Insatiable Booksluts‘ Award-Winning Challenge, and this novel won the Pullitzer Prize for 2009. I saw it at my local bookstore, thought “Hey, this will satisfy the Pullitzer Prize winner task!”, bought it, and read it.
The Book: Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
My Analysis and Critique: As previously stated, I usually don’t go for adult contemporary fiction, so this book was a surprise read. Also, it has praise from Oprah’s magazine on the cover, which immediately turns me off. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I did enjoy reading this novel. In fact, for the three days that I read it after work, I couldn’t put it down!
Strout writes beautifully, painting soulful pictures of her characters which highlight both their good and bad sides- there is no classic hero in this novel! It was rough at times, but so very real. I learned a lot about humanity and life from reading this book. Patience, forgiveness, and the many kinds of love are illustrated in the 13 short stories that comprise this novel. The reader also witnesses adultery, suicide attempts, awkward and painful parent-child relationships, and abuse directed at the very people the characters love the most.
This novel is just so very painful and so very real. I can’t read books like this every day, but it behooves me to read them occasionally. Each story taught me to be brave as I encounter the many trials that I have left to endure in life. These stories also made me want to be kinder and more appreciative of my loved ones, as well as the people I encounter every day. Olive Kitteridge teaches us that we very much do make a difference in the life of every person we meet in life. For this reason, Strout’s novel is important for any and all readers.