Source: Personal copy
Rating: 9 out of 10
Publisher: Random House
Book Club: Five Women and a Baby
Challenges: 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge
Synopsis (from the Publishers Weekly): Thirteen linked tales from Strout (Abide with Me, etc.) present a heart-wrenching, penetrating portrait of ordinary coastal Mainers living lives of quiet grief intermingled with flashes of human connection. Themes of suicide, depression, bad communication, aging and love, run through these stories, none more vivid or touching than Incoming Tide, where Olive chats with former student Kevin Coulson as they watch waitress Patty Howe by the seashore, all three struggling with their own misgivings about life. Like this story, the collection is easy to read and impossible to forget.
Overall Impression: I’m having a hard time writing a review for Olive Kitteridge. I think it’s because I felt so many different emotions while reading it, that it’s difficult to encapsulate it in a short review. I know that several reviews said that they had a hard time with the short story format, but I fell right into each story — both the ones that focused on Olive, and those that featured other characters and just mentioned Olive in passing. Toward the beginning of the book, Olive comes across as a cantankerous shrewish woman, but as you get to know her through both her own eyes and the eyes of others, you begin to empathize with her; to love her, in a cautious way. The stories in Olive Kitteridge are sad, lonely, and heartbreaking. They are also hopeful, irreverent, and quite funny. If you’re a reader who thrives on plot, then this probably isn’t for you. But if you love a beautiful, insightful, character-driven novel, then I highly recommend picking this one up.
Positives: Strout’s writing is achingly poignant and beautiful, without ever being trite. Even though this wasn’t the happiest book I’ve ever read, it struck some wonderfully deep chords.
Negatives: May not be the best book to read if you’re feeling down.
Other books I’ve read by Elizabeth Strout: none
Other blogger opinions:
Home Girl’s Book Blog: “This character-driven book was haunting, funny, irreverent, sometimes scathing, and ultimately hopeful.”
Book Journey: “This complicated woman, this woman who for most of book I did not even really like…. but I did want to figure her out.”
My Books. My Life.: “The characters, Olive and the rest of the town, and the keen insight into human interactions are what make this so good. Its Pulitzer is well-deserved.”