"Olive Kitteridge has returned, as indomitable as ever, this time as a person getting older, navigating her next decade as she comes to terms with the changes--sometimes welcome, sometimes not--in her own life. Here is Olive, strangely content in her second marriage, still in an evolving relationship with her son and his family, encountering a cast of memorable characters in the seaside town of Crosby, Maine. Whether it's a young girl coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth at a baby shower, or a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, the irascible Olive improbably touches the lives of others."--Provided by publisher.
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For those who have never met Olive Kitteridge, she is gauche, often wrong, and painfully outspoken. And she is Everyman. She is one of, if not the, most compelling characters in American Literature.
‘Olive, Again’ is the story of Olive’s last years in the close knit community of Crosby, Maine. Olive and the other inhabitants struggle with life in the Trump era. They’re all quirky and real - from the unhappy couple who has divided their house with yellow duct tape into ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ sections to the grandmother who finds it difficult to love her four inarticulate grandchildren.
The people of Crosby live in the moment, but that moment is often determined by the past. Even in the moments that they try to connect and understand each other they’re hampered by their own lack of self-awareness.
And that’s where Olive (and Strout) triumph. Olive remains imperfect, but she tries to connect to others. Olive will always be gauche; she will always thoughtlessly offend and she will always ask awkward prying questions, but she will also gain an Olive modicum of self-knowledge and a desire to do better.
A free reviewer's copy was provided by the publisher.
In book one, not many good things came to Olive, and the good things that did she pushed away. Some things she pushed away for noble reasons, others for reasons that seemed inexplicable, and probably rested in self-protection. As the reader, I wanted to shake her! But in this book, Olive let's some good into her life, and for good and ill she occasionally turns that judgmental eye on herself. She is still cantankerous, she still bulldozes everyone, she is still Olive after all, but we see growth, and some little bit of happiness, and we are able to say goodbye to this character who feels as real and enduring to me as Lizzie Bennett or Ivan Illyich, Frank Bascombe, or Nathan Zuckerman or Count Rostov. We are also privy to the process of aging. This is something rarely covered in more serious literature, but it is covered here in detail in all its random farts, soiled sheets and underwear, unaccustomed physical weakness, senility (or as Olive would say, "going dopey dope"), strained familial relations, and, of course, death. Olive and others are embarrassed by these things, but Strout doesn't let these things diminish the dignity of any character. They are just facts, and have nothing to do with the essence of any person. Its lovely.
But Olive is not the only character in these linked stories, and the other inhabitants of Crosby get beautiful tales as well. As creepy as Cleaning is (my favorite of the non-Olive stories), its creepiness is outshone by its deep sense of longing. It turns out to be incredibly sad and touching, and that really surprised me. It all surprised me and filled me with a sense of having visited people I didn't know I missed.
When his wife was dying, she was the one who was furious. … And the last thing she said to him was: “I hate you because I’m going to die and you’re going to live.”
As he glanced up at a seagull, he thought, But I’m not living, Betsy. What a terrible joke it has been.
The truth is that Olive did not understand why age had brought with it a kind of hard-heartedness toward her husband. But it was something she had seemed unable to help, as though the stone wall that had rambled along between them during the course of their long marriage--a stone wall that separated them but also provided unexpected dips of moss-covered warm spots where sunshine would flicker between them in a sudden laugh of understanding--had become tall and unyielding, and not providing flowers in its crannies but some ice storm frozen along it instead. In other words, something had come between them that seemed insurmountable.
And it came to him then that it should never be taken lightly, the essential loneliness of people, that the choices they made to keep themselves from that gaping darkness were choices that required respect.
There is an arc to the stories in this novel; time passes, and aging continues to present Olive with emotional and physical challenges. Her loneliness--often self-imposed--never quite goes away, but the final story is both bittersweet and uplifting.
Olive Kitteridge was published in 2008, (it won the Pulitzer too, which I am perfectly fine with) and now we have Olive's return, a decade later, in Olive, Again. She is still, outrageously cranky, but also ruthlessly honest, with a deep empathetic soul, and she remains one of my favorite literary creations. This is another series of linked stories, set in, Crosby, Maine and Olive shows up, front and center, in many of them, which is also completely fine with me. This collection takes Olive into her 80s and, despite her crotchety ways, she continues to be an inspiration.
The writing is a great reflection on self-awareness and lack thereof., and how much do we really ever know another person. There are also brief reflections on love, especially in the last chapter.
This book could be read without reading the first Olive Kitteridge, but why would you want to do that?
Olive Kitteridge attempts to teach life’s lesson of knowing who you are, listening to yourself and never forgetting who you are. Knowing you can love deeply and also knowing that it can be temporary. Knowing that all love should be taken seriously and then admitting that she has no clue who she has been and that she doesn’t understand a thing. Isn’t that what life is about?
Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for a copy
Quote: "There were openings into the darkness of a relationship one saw by mistake, as if inside a dark barn, the door had been momentarily blown off and one saw things not meant to be seen."
The book is a continuation of Ms. Strout’s Pulitzer prize-winning book, OLIVE KITTERIDGE. OLIVE KITTERIDGE was also developed into an award-winning HBO miniseries which is highly recommended.
OLIVE, AGAIN is a series of exquisite vignettes. The vignettes
A favorite quote from the book is “My God, but I have always loved the light in February.” As any Mainer can attest, the light is so beautiful in February. (When we have light, that is! The secretive nature of February’s light is what makes it so special when we see it.)
Another favorite quote is “Imagine, at my age, starting over again.”
Olive, for all her faults, has the insight, the capacity and ability to grow and change. That is what is very endearing to me.
This anticipated follow up features the now iconic Olive Kitteridge in a more reflective state in her life. It has been two years since her husband, Henry, died and Olive has started a new relationship
Strout is simply a gift. Her writing is breathtaking, gorgeous, and heartbreaking. Revisiting Crosby, Maine, Strout once again draws on the small-town characters and their connections to Olive. Her works speak to the reader with her signature style of subtle nuances juxtaposed against the not-so-subtle, Olive. This book is a character study that is a feast for the reader.
Admittedly I didn't enjoy this book quite much as Olive Kitteridge, but it was lovely to revisit the brutally honest and discontented, yet empathetic, Olive.
The temperamental Olive in her later decades demonstrates qualities that only come with experience and self-reflection, enabling her to be an instrument of grace to others. She is still
The stories in this book revisit characters from Strout's fictional world of Crosby, Maine.
This was a hard story to read. At age 67, my husband and I have undergone several surgeries this year. I am all too aware of the brevity of life and how we allow ourselves to be propelled through the years impassively until some change in our abilities stops us up short. We reconsider our mistakes; our view of the past and its relationships become torqued with new understanding. We wonder how we could have allowed love to become a battleground, fear to fence us from our dreams. We become invisible, an unwanted portend to others of their own inevitable future. We recognize that we are strangers to each other--and are incomprehensible even to ourselves.
What kind of life can we live in these ever-shortening days? The answer is in the line that had me in tears: "I think our job--maybe even our duty--is to--" Her voice became calm, adultlike. "To bear the burden of the mystery with as much grace as we can."
Life is a mystery. People are a mystery. There are no answers, no easy to follow instructions to guarantee success and happiness.
Like Ranier Maria Rilke wrote in his Letters to a Young Poet, we must "be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked doors and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."*
I don't know if Olive's story is completed. And I am not sure I want to follow her to her end. It's all too close to home. Strout is a fearless writer who dares to confront us with things that disturb our equilibrium. We recognize ourselves in her characters.
I read a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
Stout, takes the many incidents and foibles, the ordinary things that make up a day,and makes them interesting. As a reader one can relate to some of these occurrences, realizing these are the things that make up our lives. Childbearing, marriage, loneliness, friendship, health issues and aging. Yes, it's all here and plenty more. Life, in all its Glory and ugliness is what is on these pages, and Strout does them justice.
ARC from Random House.
While this can be read on it's own, why would you deny yourself the pleasure of following Olive from the beginning? There are some surprises in this sequel, but it's written in the same quiet, unvarnished way as the first book.
Then the reader finds another lonely soul in Jack Kennison. He spends evenings looking out his window pondering his life. “Jack sat back and looked at the light that was changing on the trees. These long, long evenings; they were so long and beautiful, it just killed him.” “He was just an old man with a sloppy belly and not anyone worth noticing. Almost, it was freeing.” “He understood that he was a seventy-four-year-old man who looks back at life and marvels that it unfolded as it did, who feels unbearable regret for all the mistakes he made.”
He goes on to say, “What frightened him was how much of his life he had lived without knowing who he was or what he was doing. It caused him to feel an inner trembling, and he could not quite find the words-for himself-to even put it exactly as he sensed it. But he sensed that he had lived his life in a way that he had not known. This meant there had been a large blind spot directly in front of his eyes. It meant that he did not understand, not really at all, how others had perceived him. And it meant that he did not know how to perceive himself.”
Jack and Olive develop a relationship that helps soothe the loneliness they both suffer from. They are both widowed and they both have unhealthy relationships with their children. They both seem to be questions who they really are and what their lives have meant.
As the book goes on, we get glimpses into the lives of other people who live in Jack and Olive’s neighborhood and their stories intersect with Jack and Olives. As usual, Elizabeth Strout knows how to write about life and humanity and the things people go through with amazing insight and beauty.
Near the end of the book Olive is reflecting back on her life. She says, “But it was almost over, after all, her life. It swelled behind her like a sardine fishing net, all sorts of useless seaweed and broken bits of shells and the tiny, shining fish.” “The billion streaks of emotion she’d had as she’d look at sunrises, sunsets the different hands of waitresses who had placed before her cups of coffee- All of it gone, or about to go.” “I do not have a clue who I have been. Truthfully, I do not understand a thing.”
The book can be summed up with these quotes: “It should never be taken lightly, the essential loneliness of people.” “Maybe you fall in love with people who save your life, even when you think it’s not worth saving.”
I adore Olive and wish there were was a whole series of books with her as the leading lady. I laughed out loud. My heart hurt. I didn’t want it to end. Well done, Elizabeth Strout!!!
That background is important to understand because with Olive, Again, Strout picks up Olive’s history roughly where the first book ended. Written about a decade after the original, this sequel is also structured as a series of interconnected short narratives, some involving Olive as the main focal point and others in which she is a minor presence in someone else’s story. To be sure, though, this is very much Olive’s tale, as from the outset we find her widowed by her first husband Henry and retired from a career as a middle school math teacher. The book then relates the main events in her life over the next few decades, including a second marriage, a deepening relationship with her estranged son, and an ultimate move into a rest home as her health begins to fail. As before, much of this development involves some heartbreaking themes, such as suicides, failed marriages, dementia, professional betrayal, and the like.
For those who loved Olive Kitteridge—and I am definitely in that camp—this new book is a most welcome chance to deepen our understanding of a complex, flawed, and very human character. Olive still has many of the same rough edges and she remains her own worst enemy when it comes to interacting with friends, former students, and strangers alike. But, I also found her to be far more empathetic this time around and, dare I say it, even a little more humorous than before. The word “mellow” should never be used to describe Olive, but she is definitely moving in that direction. Of course, all of this is to the author’s great credit; Strout is a truly gifted writer whose deep insights into human nature—particularly with respect to the aging process—are captured so beautifully on every page. I am not sure if we have now seen the last of Olive, but it has been an absolute pleasure to accompany her on her journey to this point.
These linked stories pick up in Olive’s life soon after the original collection left off, and they progress linearly over the next couple of decades. In some, Olive merely pops in. In some, other characters from the original collection appear, or characters from Strout’s other collections (hello again, Burgess boys!). In many, Olive is the lead character (and with kudos to the fabulous performances in HBO’s adaptation of Olive Kitteridge, I constantly found myself picturing Frances McDormand). The stories have funny moments (particularly Olive’s over-the-top abruptness), but tend to be prickly and reflective in dealing with relationships and aging.
More than the original, this collection left me wanting even more stories. Perhaps one day, Olive will publish her memoirs?
(Review based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher.)
Although subtitled, “a novel”, once again Strout presents Olive and the other inhabitants of Crosby through linked short stories. In many of these, Olive is front and centre. But in others she appears only peripherally. In each, the protagonist learns something hidden about themselves, even if that bit of knowledge is already evident to everyone else. Olive learns that she has been a bad mother. She discovers that she is snob (though an inverse one). She is surprised, often, by these epiphanies. And sometimes they make her sad. Indeed, it might be said that sadness pervades this book, as Olive transitions from being old to being elderly. But one of her final epiphanies is that she doesn’t have a clue who she has been, that she does not understand a thing. Which rather throws the earlier insights in doubt. And that doubt is about the most human trait that Olive possesses. It’s why we are so glad to spend time with her again.
Although not as subtle or, I think, as powerful as the earlier presentation of Olive, this is nonetheless a book well worth savouring. You may find it makes you a touch sad as well.
Olive, Again picks up the thread of Olive’s life not long after the first story ended and, as in the first novel, comprises a series of linked vignettes featuring residents of the small town of Crosby, Maine. A number of the characters are familiar from the previous book but the reader’s insights into their lives and experiences is deepened by the author’s acute observations of how people behave in a whole range of scenarios, how previous firmly-held views and beliefs can change when individuals face new challenges and how this then affects those around them see them. There wasn’t one character in the book which wasn’t finely drawn and entirely credible and the author captured so evocatively the fact that, behind closed doors, there are often individuals living lives of quiet desperation. Although the titular character of Olive sometimes appears only on the periphery of some of these stories, her presence is, to a greater or lesser degree, central to each of them, with each of the stories adding to the reader’s understanding of this flawed, complex character.
Olive herself is self-aware and honest enough to recognise that there are many ways in which she too has changed over the years, although often seeming surprised that this has happened! There are many ways in which she has mellowed but, essentially, she has never lost that acuity which has always defined her interactions with others, and neither has she lost her ability to show remarkable compassion towards people who are, in one way or another, suffering.
In my review of the first book I reflected on my huge admiration for the author’s ability to “transform a collection of vignettes into such a satisfying whole, managing to combine moments of profound sadness, loneliness, regret, cruelty, anger, and loss with so many moments of caring tenderness, deep empathy, long-lasting love, loyalty, reconciliation and, ultimately, a message that no matter how messy and confusing it is, life is worth living to the full, no matter what your age.” Those observations feel equally valid for this sequel, which has at its heart so much about the realities of ageing, with some keenly observed, sympathetic reflections on its associated challenges, a subject which is seldom treated so honestly (if at all!) in fiction writing. Olive may not like what is happening to her body but, as always, she’s prepared to face the challenges head-on, no “going quietly” for her!
I’ve grown to love Olive Kitteridge! She’s such an endearing character (not that she would necessarily recognise or approve of that description!) and I’m already feeling bereft of her company; even in those moments when I felt frustrated by her sometimes self-destructive behaviour, I always felt able to believe in her innate goodness … and I thoroughly enjoyed her waspish sense of humour. So, I find myself hoping (although probably in vain!) that this isn’t the last we’ll hear of this wonderful character, as well as the residents of Crosby, Maine!