Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

 

 

Who? Olive Kitteridge, retired school teacher, and various members of her family and citizens of her town.

What? A Pulitzer Prize winning novel constructed of 13 stories that depict human struggle, loneliness, loss, grief, broken relationships, disappointment, heartache and rejection, but also hope, connection, support and forgiveness.

Where? Crosby, a small coastal town in Maine.

When? The early seventies through the early-21st c.

Why? I’m not sure why Elizabeth Strout wrote this wonderful novel, but I can tell you why I liked it. Olive is a fascinating character. She is crusty, self-centered,  opinionated, and hard-headed but she can be surprisingly sympathetic and is willing to attempt change to better connect with others. Her flaws are touchingly familiar and her challenges are painfully universal. A lot of the stories portray older people facing the loss of their spouses or the loss of love for their spouses and these stories are hard to read. I think loneliness in old age is a tough subject to face head-on and it doesn’t make for a fluffy read. One of my co-workers saw me reading this at lunch and commented that she thought it was one of the most depressing books she’s ever read. I concede that it is gloomy in places and even heartbreaking. I cried at several points in the book. However, I think it is a beautiful character study and has a lot of lessons  to convey about being more forgiving and understanding of the people in our particular spheres of influence. Sometimes I don’t like novels that are so brutally honest, but this one is exceptional. It is harrowing to read, but not without its moments of joy and hope. I think it is very worthy of the Pulitzer Prize.

*Olive loves donut holes from Dunkin’ Donuts.*

10 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I thought the book was brilliant, I can see why it won the Pulitzer, but Olive is one of the most unpleasant characters I have met in a long time. I kept thinking as I was reading that I wouldn’t want to spend this much time with her in real life!

  2. I loved this book as well. I have heard some people dismiss it as being too depressing, but I think that’s too much of an easy write-off that ignores the complexities of feeling the book deals with. Yes, Olive is very unpleasant for most of the book, but she had just enough moments of grace to give one pause. I love books that deal with the hidden, less obvious aspects of a character’s personality like that. It makes me think twice about some of the less than lovely people I encounter in real life!

  3. Olive Kitteridge is one of my favorites! I read it a couple of years ago and loved it. I do remember initially finding Olive “off-putting” to say the least yet the story came together in such a talented manner!
    Beth 🙂

  4. love the donuts witht the book that mentions them ,I like this at time it won the big award as it is interlocking stories and I love them just read the Oz that is interlocking stories ,all the best stu

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