Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge

by Elizabeth Strout

Carol Sherman (02/17/13): My book club reviewed this book last week and I was not able to attend. I liked the book very much. I usually do not like short stories, but I liked this one. Olive (and Henry for much of the book - I really like him, he put up with a lot and loved Olive dispite her faults) linked them all together so well.

Olive was not likable most of the time. But I must admit I could relate to her unlikable qualities and found a lot of me in her. She provided wonderful snipits of the emotions, challenges, and relationships that happen in this journey of life. How I react to them makes all the difference.

I enjoyed reading the reviews from others on this site as well. The idea of reading aloud the chapter and the one word contributions were great ideas - thank you.
Rating: *****

Anne Ferber: Thoreau must have been thinking of Crosby, Maine when he said that people live "lives of quiet desperation and take their songs with them to the grave". The character of Olive Kitteridge is not sympathetic or likable; she is abrupt, outspoken, judgemental, curmudgeonly, and suffers fools very badly. However, I found myself liking her more and more as the stories progressed, with each one showing her personality in a different context and rounding out her character into a multi-dimensional human being. She seemed to be the only one offering meaningful help to an anorexic, she had her own ludicrous sense of vengence against her first daughter-in-law, she sympathized with the poor loser of a lad who took her hostage, she suffered a humiliating diatribe from a neighbor whose son had stabbed his wife to death, and finally, after suffering the loss of her husband, and her son's affections, she seems to actually understand her own responsibility in all these relationships. At an advanced age, she actually grows and introspects to the point of being able to tolerate and care for a person whose opinions are diametrically opposed to her own.

The fact that the 13 unconnected stories combine to make one excellent novel can only be attributed to the masterful writing of Ms Strout, who combines humor with painful longing, lonliness, and humiliation. I did not want to like this book because of the Pulitzer Prize, which I think belongs elsewhere, but I must admit she managed to make it a wonderfully readable whole.
Rating: ****

Jane Shaw: We recently reviewed this book for our Book Club. I had chosen the book and also facilitated it. We read out loud the chapter "A Little Burst" at the meeting- apparently the first short story she wrote when she decided to do a book around Olive. It was so powerful to read aloud in a group. I asked the members to privately do a one word description of Olive at the beginning of book club (on a note card) and then use another word or the same one to describe her at the end of the discussion. Fascinating- the variety of one word descriptions that we had written about this complicated and complex character. Our group loved the book and it made for a really w onderful discussion.
Rating: *****

Gail Reid: Olive Kitteridge, though not always a likeable character, may be one of the more memorable ones in recent fiction. Her strong personality influences every chapter in the book, although in some instances her character plays a minor role. Life in small-town Maine comes across very clearly when the reader gets to see that the problems that individuals and families face are often universal concerns. Although some of the chapters are formerly published short stories, the linking together of them forms a novel with much depth. I think the author must have incredible insight to write so descriptively about mundane situations and communicate so well the inner turmoil that her characters feel. I finished the book two weeks ago --- still thinking about it.
Rating: *****

Debbie Weiss: I must admit that I was a bit disappointed in this book after having heard such glowing reviews by other readers. While the book was certainly written well, I just couldn't get into many of the individual story lines. I was often bored with the characters and did not feel involved in the plots. The book's concept reminded me of the books written by Kate Atkinson where many different story lines that seem to be independent all come together at the end of the book. However, I simply found Atkinson's books to be fascinating --- but not so with this novel.
Rating: ***

Carol Donsky Newell: I have to add that this is one of the best books I've read this year. The stories stand on their own, but when you take them together, with the complicated character of Olive roaming through them, they become a wonderful novel of small town life in Maine. It's moving and heartfelt and wonderfully written.
Rating: *****

Robin Ashworth: This quick read tells about the life of Olive Kitteridge, a retired school teacher in Crosby Maine. Her life is revealed in thirteen short stories and not until the end do you realize how difficult a life she led. Olive is cantankerous, insightful, mean and truly not an endearing woman but you get attached somehow to her by the end. This book won a Pulitzer Prize which is a bit curious to me. It was entertaining and funny and sad.
Rating: ****

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