Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

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. [borrowed from GoodReads]

As I'm sure some of you already know, I'm not too fond of short stories - although I did purchase this with the hopes of enjoying it since they seem to be loosely related stories with one particular character, the ubiquitous Olive Kitteridge. And as expected Olive does appear in every story in the book - sometimes just merely by name, other times it's a cameo appearance, but her presence is definitely felt throughout these vignettes into the lives of some of the residents of Crosby, Maine.

Now let me shed some light on the infamous Olive Kitteridge. Olive Kitteridge = a bit nasty, a little on the heavy side and definitely older. That description alone should give you a feel for exactly what we're dealing with here.

As you go from story to story you read about Olive, her friends, relatives and acquaintances scattered throughout Crosby, Maine. And I will confess that the stories in this book will have you thinking not just about the fictional characters Ms. Strout has created, but about your own life and that of your friends and family. These are very real life characters that you can easily associate with yourself.

With that said, sadly, I just never got around to "really" liking any of the characters. Don't take me wrong, Olive was a force like no other. When she came into a room (or a story) her presence was definitely made known.
But I think it made me feel preoccupied... in the sense that I was looking forward to Olive. When was she going to enter the story? How did this person know Olive? Was she their teacher? Was she a neighbor that lived down the road? Olive, Olive, Olive. In the end, I found it to be distracting.

I honestly thought the premise was unique and clever. And, needless to say, Ms. Strout's writing is superb... but in the end it just never clicked for me. I'm not sure if that was because the stories were too short or I just had "too" high expectations for this, but sadly it just fell flat for me.


Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Great review!

Diane said...

Great review. I really enjoyed this book.

Jenny said...

I thought it was good and I can see why it was hailed, but it also wasn't my favorite thing. I didn't have a whole lot of expectations for it either. And I do think that older individuals would be able to relate better to it.

Andrea [Buried In Books] said...

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Beth F said...

I am curious about this one and will likely have a similar reaction as you did. I appreciate your honest review.

Mary said...

Good review. I agree with you mostly because I just couldn't warm to any of the characters. That almost never happens - except with short stories. I thought I'd enjoy this book more because the stories are connected, but no. The writing is great but I just didn't love the stories. I'm in the minority, I know.

Kailana said...

I just finished this tonight and I agree with most of what you have to say!

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