Olive Kitteridge

by Elizabeth Strout

Paperback, 2008

Call number

FIC STR

Collection

Publication

Random House Trade Paperbacks (2008), Edition: Reprint, 320 pages

Description

At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer's eyes, it's in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama -- desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love. 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 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.… (more)

Media reviews

Each of the 13 tales serves as an individual microcosm of small-town life, with its gossip, small kindnesses, and everyday tragedies. Not all the minor characters stand out the way Henry and Olive do, and there are a pile of them to keep straight by the end. I also couldn’t quite place how one
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story, “Ship in a Bottle,” meshed with the rest. But those are small flaws far outweighed by the book’s compassion and intelligence.
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The pleasure in reading “Olive Kitteridge” comes from an intense identification with complicated, not always admirable, characters. And there are moments in which slipping into a character’s viewpoint seems to involve the revelation of an emotion more powerful and interesting than simple
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fellow feeling—a complex, sometimes dark, sometimes life-sustaining dependency on others.
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Olive Kitteridge might be described by some as a battle axe or as brilliantly pushy, by others as the kindest person they had ever met. Olive herself has always been certain that she is 100% correct about everything - although, lately, her certitude has been shaken. This indomitable character
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appears at the centre of these narratives that comprise Olive Kitteridge. In each of them, we watch Olive, a retired schoolteacher, as she struggles to make sense of the changes in her life and the lives of those around her always with brutal honesty, if sometimes painfully. Olive will make you laugh, nod in recognition, as well as wince in pain or shed a tear or two. We meet her stoic husband, bound to her in a marriage both broken and strong, and her own son, tyrannised by Olive's overbearing sensitivities. The reader comes away, amazed by this author's ability to conjure this formidable heroine and her deep humanity that infiltrates every page.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member msf59
This is a short story collection that takes place in and around Crosby, Maine and linking these stories is the wonderful title character. She is also prominently featured in about a third of them. Olive is not likable. She's bossy, brusque, contentious and sometimes cruel but there is a deep soul
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to this woman, which becomes more evident as you read along. Everyone knows a person with some or all of these traits, my maternal grandmother comes to mind for me. This line sums up Olive pretty well: "She didn't like to be alone. Even more, she didn't like being with people." I know some readers will detest this character but I think she is one of the best literary creations I've ever come across. This book is not always easy, the people in it are struggling with their lives,grasping for happiness and a reason to live but I feel it's simply a book about the endurance of love. My highest recommendation!
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LibraryThing member womansheart
A life examined IS worth living.

Last night, or early this morning ... I finished reading Olive Kitteridge. I have had one of Elizabeth Strout's books in my TBR cyber stack for quite some time. I read so many positive comments about Olive that I leap-frogged over to this one, which won the Pulitzer
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Prize.

This book has an unusual presentation style or template, if you will. Each chapter is almost able to present itself as a free standing short story and at the same time also serves as a larger part of the theme of the entire book, which is the redemption of the main character, Olive Kitteridge.

This novel has some of the most wonderful moments of self-realization that I have ever read and they left me slightly stunned with admiration for both the character and the author, Ms. Strout.

I give this book four stars and recommend it very highly. I will give those of you who don't go in for quirky/strange characters a heads-up ... you WILL find/meet them in this fictional town in Maine. (That is the reason for four not five stars). I would love to live there myself for a long, long time.

This book is well worth owning and reading and re-reading in whole or in part.

Connecting with one's humanity is redemptive and humbling as well as a rewarding process for the one redeemed.

Enjoy, or ??? Worth the time and slight effort to stick it out. I found the ending to be very satisfying.
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LibraryThing member IronMike
Something in the air in Crosby, Maine, is making everyone clinically depressed. Suicide was a theme in the first 4 episodes of this book, and when I read the 5th story, I said to myself, "finally, no mention of suicide." Then I realized that the story had been about a 23 year old anorexic girl
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killing herself, which is kind of like suicide when you get down to it. I'm giving the book 4 stars because the writing is exceptionally good. I suppose naturally depressed readers will rate it 5 stars, no doubt about it.

I remember lying on a gurney in a hospital emergency ward a few years back. I was pretty sure I was going to die. I was surrounded by a bunch of other folks in similar condition, and many of them were groaning like you couldn't believe. It was driving me nuts, and I would have told them to shut the hell up if I had the strength. When a doctor finally stopped to check me, I told the guy "nice tie." The guy immediately began pumping a few gallons of blood into me, and got me fixed up in a week. I think he appreciated that I wasn't a groaner. I guess I just don't have a depressive personality. Olive Kitteridge, the person, isn't a groaner, but generally speaking Olive Kitteridge the book, is about the groaners.

Try as I might to put the book down, something kept drawing me back to it. I'm reminded of Otto Rank's remark about men tranquilizing themselves with the trivial so they can lead normal lives, but hardly anyone in this novel does this. There's only one fairly normal guy: he's a minor character who maintains a positive attitude, while building a boat inside his garage...a boat that looks like it will probably be too big to pull out of the garage when the work is finished. All the other characters take themselves way too seriously. They need hobbies or something.

Some of the stories I just didn't "get." There's one story near the end of the book where this woman can't find a job, and she keeps burning pieces of paper in her sink while she's talking on the phone, and then she figures it's a half-hour walk to her doctor's office; and it's the middle of the night; and she loads her pocket book with lighter fluid and a sweater and paper and two cigarette lighters and leaves her house. The story ends there. Is she going to commit suicide? I guess so, but there doesn't seem to be much motivation provided earlier in the story for her to do something so drastic. It just fits with all the other suicidal stuff in the book.

One reviewer said that this is a "womans' book." Maybe that explains it? I don't think I've ever read a "womans' book" before. If they're all like this I'm pretty sure I'll never read one again.
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LibraryThing member greentea
It won the Pulitzer? Really?
LibraryThing member mrstreme
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout was a novel comprised of thirteen short stories about people living in rural Maine. Several of the stories were based on the title character, but many of the stories only showed us a glimpse of Olive. From any perspective, Strout provided her readers with an
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enjoyable cast of characters and their life stories.

Olive was a retired teacher, married to Henry, and the mother of one son, Christopher. As a teacher at the same middle school for years, she had the rare opportunity to know most of her neighbors through school. Olive was flawed, often depicted as angry, condescending and sharp-tongued. However, in other chapters, Olive showed many favorable characteristics, helping her former students and fellow townspeople in small but significant ways.

Through this quilt of stories, the readers – and Olive –gleaned lessons of loving and living. One of my favorite thoughts from Olive Kitteridge was at the very end: “…that love was not to be tossed away on a platter with others that got passed around again. No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn’t choose it.” Though Olive’s life story, I learned something about my own life and choices (good and bad) that I’ve made.

The character of Olive Kitteridge with her detestable moments in one chapter and her tender moments in another made her real and alive to me. She was a cantankerous old lady with a heart of gold. Indeed, she will go down as one of my favorite literary characters.

If you enjoyed the structure of Winesburg, Ohio or the small-town writing style of Richard Russo, then grab Olive Kitteridge. But even if you don’t, grab this book anyway. I think most readers of contemporary women’s fiction can find something to like in Olive Kitteridge (and I bet it will be Olive herself).
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LibraryThing member clamairy
I enjoyed this collection, despite the lack of lovable characters. Olive is a bit of an enigma. I appreciated that her view of herself differed so drastically from her neighbors’ and acquaintances’ views of her. In fact, this seems to be her biggest flaw. Most of the residents of her small
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Maine town are intimidated or downright terrified of her, and think of her as a tall imposing woman, while she seems to be obsessing about looking too wide from behind, or being seen in public a stain on her blouse. This is not a feel good book. In fact, it’s often a painfully realistic look at many self-absorbed lives, with Olive as the only common point. In fact, her inclusion in a few of the stories seemed a bit contrived. It is a positive reading experience overall, though. I did ultimately sympathize with Olive, even if I wouldn’t ever want to deal with her.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
Set in a town in Maine, this is a collection of inter-related short stories all of which involve the title character, sometimes as the star and sometimes in a walk-on part. The stories feature a lot of anger, infidelity, depression, and general mean-spiritedness that one might find among the people
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of any small town (or large city). Apparently fictional accounts of awful people are all the rage in my book groups as of late. At any rate, Strout's writing is decent but this book just didn't move me.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
I have mixed feelings about this book. Olive is one of those people you can't ignore, and I'm sure she would be difficult to live with, yet the more I read about her, the more I liked her. She doesn't sit around and wait for life to happen -- she lives it, one day at a time, with all of its ups and
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downs. The stories about Olive were what kept me going through the book. I quickly grew tired of the stories about the other people. They didn't have much in common other than that they all live in the same community, they all know Olive to some degree, and they all are at a turning point in their lives. Their stories were just long enough to showcase their miseries, but not long enough to make me care about their pasts or futures. I'm glad I read it once, but Crosby, Maine, isn't a place I'll want to revisit.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel centers around Olive and Henry Kitteridge, an older couple living in a small town in Maine, grappling with aging and the changes in the world around them. Good friends have died; young people are a mystery. Their son Christopher has married and moved
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away. The novel is actually a baker's dozen of short stories, each featuring Olive in some way. Sometimes the story is all about Olive; at other times she is but a passing figure seen on the stairs or on a balcony, or a casual observer of another's life story.

Olive is a former middle school math teacher both feared and respected by her students. She's a large woman, grown even more so in her sixties and seventies. She has difficulty showing her emotions, keeping her son's estrangement to herself rather than sharing this grief with friends. She can also be a bit brusque and abrasive. But despite this I couldn't help liking Olive. The stories flow chronologically through Olive's later years. I found a few especially memorable:
- Pharmacy: This is the first story, and introduces Olive and Henry and is also the only story focused primarily on Henry's thoughts and feelings. The reader meets Olive first from Henry's point of view.
- Starving: An amazing story of Harmon, who is in a lifeless marriage with Bonnie and befriends another woman named Daisy. She helps him discover himself, and he takes a significant decision in hopes of happiness, but the story ends a bit unresolved.
- A Different Road: A traumatic incident disrupts Olive and Henry's peaceful lives and has a lasting impact.
- Security: Olive visits her newly-married son after a long time apart. They have difficulty relating to one another as adults and this further strains their relationship.

While each of these stories can stand on its own, this book is wonderful when read cover-to-cover, as a novel. Full of rich characters and emotional impact, it will remain with me for some time.
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LibraryThing member ijustgetbored
Oddly, while I am not usually a fan of short stories, I liked this "novel in stories" better as stories than as a novel. As one might expect with short stories, the quality varied a great deal. The idea of this novel is that you gain a picture of Olive Kitteridge through the stories-- sometimes
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she's in the starring role, and sometimes she's a perpherial character. I like that concept, but I honestly felt as if I got the same basic picture over and over toward the end of the book. It was as if the book started out more nuanced and then became more repetitve and heavy handed; perhaps it needed more editing? Strout is at her best when she doesn't play her hand too forcefully, when she keeps her cards back, as in the story "Incoming Tide," one of the novel's star pieces. Weaker stories, such as "Security," show too much and leave too little to the imagination, which is supposed to be doing the work of putting Mrs. Kitteridge together. Henry's character is underplayed; at times, he seems like a wistful Mrs. Dalloway, wishing that everyone could be married. I wish there had been more development of his character as well, because I felt that he was a bigger piece of Olive than the book ultimately made him out to be. The ending, the final story, "River," is a tremendous disappointment. It throws all nuance and delicacy of thought out the window and hammers home feelings of love and need without any regard for the finer points of storytelling. It was, for me, a terribly disappointing ending.

But don't be mistaken: There are some stories in this collection (I prefer to think of it as a collection rather than a novel because I think it works better that way) that truly shine: "Incoming Tide," "The Piano Player," and the tremendous "A Little Burst," among others.

It's a solid 3-- you could pick and choose stories and not try to form the character from the stories and still have a pleasant read.
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LibraryThing member jrbeach
Here's the short version of my review – I enjoyed this book very much, and recommend it highly. On the back of the ARC copy there is a blurb from Alice Munro (one of my favorite authors) for Strouts earlier book Amy and Isabelle, which reads "A novel of shining integrity and humor, about the
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bravery and hard choices of what is called ordinary life." The same blurb can be used to describe this book.

The novel is a loose collection of stories about the people of the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine. The common character in the stories, even if she's mentioned as only a passing recollection, is the retired teacher Olive Kitteridge. The theme common to the stories is the human need to love and be loved, and the sometimes unexpected actions that result from those needs.

One middle age couple befriends an anorexic young woman. The older woman, Daisy, "showed him a gift she was sending Nina – a pillow crossed-stitched with the words I AM LOVED. "Don't you think that might help her, to glance at that sometimes?" she asked."
When Olive thought about someone she had loved "she had the sensation that she had been seen. And she had not even known she'd felt invisible."

Those quotes are some examples of why I liked these stories so much – ordinary people and ordinary situations, believable and familiar, but that are engaging for their insights into our own actions and thoughts.
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LibraryThing member jenngv
I have no desire to finish this book, except that I don't like to not finish.
LibraryThing member crazy4novels
When is the last time that you willingly spent an entire week with someone you didn't like, even though you were free to escape at any moment without the slightest penalty? Never? Neither had I, until I picked up Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer prize winning book, "Olive Kitteridge," last month, and
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discovered that the longer I lingered with the book's abrasive main character, the less I wanted to leave her house.

Caustic, judgmental, and "honest" to a fault, Olive Kitteridge resembles the scary aunt that children run away from at family reunions -- the one who informs you that your legs are too fat to wear shorts and that you have Grandpa's nose. Even her body is a force of nature. Olive is unusually tall, and not in a willowy way. She slices through the small Maine town of Crosby like a sturdy ship of state, leaving battered feelings in her wake like so much hurricane flotsam.

Olive Kitteridge is a woman to be reckoned with, a fact that is not lost on her long suffering husband, Henry. He's a bespectacled, tentative man who loves his job as a pharmacist and awakens each morning with the belief that the world is a good place filled with good people. His workplace is a refuge where he can satisfy his hunger to make everyone happy. No one can make Olive happy, however, and the hairs on the back of Henry's neck tingle each evening as he drives home in anticipation of Olive's inevitable irritation with him or with Christopher, their only child.

Olive may be easy to dislike, but she's also fascinating. She delivers one-liners that are rude and yet strangely satisfying to read; they're the kind of remarks that we've all secretly wished we could say at some time. Olive: "How I hate a grown woman who says 'the little girls' room.' Is she drunk?" Further example: When Christopher leaves Olive alone with his recent (and many-times divorced) bride, Olive looks about and casually asks, "Where is your newest husband?" Her thoughts aren't something to be proud of, but we've all had them ("More gratifying, however, was the fact that . . . the story of Bill and Bunny's offspring was worse than their own.")

Olive isn't all bad, however, and the author is brilliant in her ability to elicit compassion from the reader as the complexity of Olive's personality is gradually developed. Olive's years with her son are filled with impatience and discord, but she is devastated and profoundly lonely when he chooses to move to California; "Pain, like a pinecone unfolding, seemed to blossom beneath her breastbone." She observes her future daughter-in-law gently stroke the hair of a young flower girl at Christopher's wedding, and acknowledges to herself that something is deeply wrong with her own inability to express physical affection. She is mortified when, after an evening dinner, she realizes that Christopher and Ann never informed her that she had food on her blouse, a "courtesy" extended to an aging old woman. Olive's former students (she was a junior high math teacher) remember her with respect and admiration. "Don't be scared of your hunger," she told one of them, "If you're scared of your hunger, you'll just be one more ninny like everyone else." These moments help the reader to empathize with, if not admire, Olive. In doing so, the reader expands his/her ability to realize that the complex mystery of others is never fully knowable.

This book is technically a series of short stories that are all connected in some way to Olive, but it reads more like a novel. In addition to being a character-driven tour de force, it is also a wise commentary on domestic relations, the ways of small towns, and the human condition in general. Take a trip to Crosby, Maine and spend the week with Olive. I think you'll be glad you did.
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LibraryThing member tymfos
This is not the sort of book that I would expect to stay up half the night reading and then pick up immediately the next morning, upon my son's departure for school, to finish. Such behavior by me is generally reserved for a good murder mystery or thriller. This book is made up of less sensational
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stuff, but was strangely compelling. Not that there weren't touches of the sensational in the lives of Olive Kitteridge's neighbors, occasionally even in the life of Olive herself -- but the focus of the book seemed more upon how we muddle through life: our actions, reactions and interactions; and how our actions are perceived by, and affect, others.

This book left me feeling unsettled. I don't like books that have phony-feeling endings that tie up all the loose ends neatly, but this book was the opposite extreme. The glimpses of Olive and her family and neighbors left me with so many unanswered questions . . . I guess that's one of the points, that life is like that and the people we know, we know only so much about . . .
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LibraryThing member jsiegcola
I feel like the member of the audience who's been asked by the magician to "pick a card, any card". Reading "Olive Kitteridge: a Novel in Stories" by Elizabeth Strout is like that experience in that I could pick out any story (chapter) and be a winner. I have long been a fan of the short story
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genre, as I feel the author has to pull you into her/his world and convince you of the worth of the characters and what they express through their words and actions in such a brief time. Olive's stories represent some of the best efforts I've read because each story, whether Olive is the protagonist or the sideshow, is complete and satisfying. The benefit of having a whole novel of them is the clearer picture you get as each chapter unfolds the many layers of Olive. The everydayness of life underlies all of these vignettes, and yet each one is a turning point that makes one's life matter more to the reader. Olive can be cruel as she chides her husband over his choice of a new employee, empathetic with a young man who seems to be contemplating suicide, righteous about her son's poor choices in marriage partners, fierce in her loyalty as she cares for her invalid husband after he suffers a stroke, and finally, vulnerable as she contemplates the future that she no longer wants to participate in. We each may not always find ourselves dealing with all that Olive confronts in her small port side village in Maine, but we come to understand and often relate to the many choices Olive makes as she slogs through this hard scrabble world.
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LibraryThing member TimBazzett
Crosby, ME, is Winesburg, OH, brought up to date, only better. This is such a decidedly five-star book it needs a higher classification. I read Strout's Amy and Isabelle a while back and thought at the time that fiction just doesn't get much better than this. Then I read Olive Kitteredge and found
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out I was wrong. Strout's fiction just keeps getting better. Olive and Henry and all the other characters in this collection of stories are so very real, so very human that I found it hard to believe this was fiction. Strout has a knack for getting inside other people's heads and hearts - all kinds of people of either sex, children and adults alike. Her skill simply boggles my mind. The character of Olive is the axis for all of the other lives created here, and she is perhaps one of the most fully realized and memorable folks fiction has had to offer in many years. She's not very nice, and yet she is. She is a monster of sorts, and yet she's not. She doesn't appreciate her kind-hearted long-suffering husband, and yet, finally, she does. She seems too mean to ever be lonely, and yet, finally, she is. I found myself rooting for Olive and Jack as I read the final story, "River," and thought of the Biblical thing that tells us it's not good for man to be alone. God help ya, Jack Kennison, because I think Olive might, in her loneliness, learn to love you. I am hoping now, without much hope, that Elizabeth Strout might give us more of Olive Kitteredge in another book. (I'm old enough to appreciate a book about love and septuagenarians.) In the meantime, here I go thinking it again. Fiction can't get any better than this book, Olive Kitteredge.
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LibraryThing member mdexter
This melancholy collection of short stories set in coastal Maine centers on Olive Kitteridge, a math teacher in the local high school. While Olive isn’t the central character in all of the stories, she is present throughout . We see her from her own perspective but also from the perspective of
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others around her. When we first meet her, in “Pharmacy,” she is hardly appealing. Here she is the shrewish wife of the gentle local pharmacist. But later, in “Starving,” we find her crying for an anorexic young girl and in “Incoming Tide” she inadvertently comforts a suicidal young man. And Olive, the misunderstood mother, aches for the loss of her son. There is more to Olive than meets the eye.

In fact, there is more to all of Strout’s characters than meets the eye. These New Englanders manage their lives stoically, saying little to each other of the pain that lies underneath. These stories get at the heart of relationship, what it means to live and love over many years. Beautifully written, some are painful to read, they feel so true in their description of human frailties. It is understandable why this quiet book won the Pulitzer Prize. It will stay with you for a long time. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member indygo88
Apparently I'm the only one who didn't care for this book, as I can't seem to find any other less-than-stellar reviews. I'm going to blame it on the fact that this was the abridged audio version, & perhaps something just got lost in the abridgement, or the audio, or something. It just didn't come
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together for me. I found it slow-moving & depressing, and....well....dull. Reminded me a little bit of Ian McEwan's writing, who I also have a lot of trouble appreciating, so maybe it's just me.
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LibraryThing member lizzybeans11
I think I'm just not in the mood to read this book. It's too depressing and I'm finding it difficult to follow the time/narrative jumps. And yet, I can't say it's written poorly. The plot seems outlandish and I don't know what the point is.

It won a Pulitzer so I feel like it should be fantastic,
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but I'm not enjoying it.
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LibraryThing member bobbieharv
I resisted reading this book for quite a while. Amy and Isabelle is one of my all-time favorites, but I didn't much like Abide With Me; plus I didn't think I'd want to read a book about an old lady in Maine. But: I had no idea this book was so powerful. Masterful. So deserving of the Pulitzer.

She
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tells the story of Olive by weaving it around her; telling us about all the other people in the small Maine town whose lives she touched. Only toward the end do we see things through her eyes, and begin to realize her humanity.

Each of the other stories could have been a book in itself. Beautiful, thoughtful, resonant writing.
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LibraryThing member briantomlin
The most striking this about this novel is its structure: it is a landscape novel with the title character as a running theme or motif as a constant among thirteen stories. This landscape is lonely; each character essentially lives life within him or herself, despite living in a close, small Maine
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community. The narrative voice is strangely detached, heightening the sense that the characters are separate from one another. The reader is therefore kept at an emotional distance. Death is a frequent visitor to the characters, and marriages are presented as mostly contentious and negative.
A nonlinear, nonchronogical narrative structure must be built with extra care so as not to confuse the reader. Strout reveals this as the greatest strength of this work: by keeping the narrative voice simple and clear, she avoids the complexity trap that has befallen so many experiemental storytellers. Jumps in time are kept to a manageable number, and are cleverly elucidated.
Of all of the different interpretations of loss and pain that are portrayed, it its Olive Kitteridge herself that, surprisingly, emerges as the most whole. The reader encounters different views of her from various perspectives as other characters give their views of her. We see her argue with her husband, son, and commit childish acts. But it is the revelation of who she is that adds depth and push to stories that otherwise would have a tendency to get sleepy. Olive is the type of character that leaves an impact far greater than her personality or actions might suggest.
The mature, embittered woman encountered early on becomes more so by the end, only the reader comes to understand Olive better by seeing different angles of who she is. Elizabeth Strout achieves the coveted feat of making us like an unlikable character , mainly by showing that Olive Kitteridge is human just like we are.
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LibraryThing member kambrogi
To a great extent a collection of short stories about people living in a small town community in Maine, this novel examines the tragedies and struggles in the everyday lives of young and old, eventually zeroing on one character, Olive Kitteridge. We meet Olive during her forties, when she is a
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schoolteacher, wife of the local pharmacist and mother of one child. We continue to follow her life as it weaves in and out of the lives of others, and we puzzle over her peculiar nature. She is abrasive and dismissive, often cold and even cruel, disliked by almost everyone who knows her. Yet we have the opportunity to see her personal tragedies, her pain, her regrets and her occasional extraordinary empathy for others, most particularly young adults. The book is beautifully written, compassionate and observant, and it takes on the challenge of presenting a protagonist who is heartbreakingly human, heroic only in that she carries on when she often feels that she cannot.
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LibraryThing member ffortsa
Oh my. A splendid, heartbreaking tale, broken into short stories that could stand on their own, but together build a picture of a place and a community struggling with the realities of life and death.

The writing is excellent, and the title character is complicated, sometimes unlovable, etched with
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such specificity I feel I would know her in an instant.

Many of the interwoven stories deal with the impact of death, not always the death of old people, and love, not always of young people. It gets down to the essentials of life, the difficulty of connection, the pain of lost connections. It made me weep at the end, for Olive and for myself, because there were no more stories of her for me to read.
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LibraryThing member rmckeown
For the life of me, I cannot understand how this novel won a Pulitzer Prize. The committee must have had an overstock of shrinks and therapists! Practically every character is either suicidal, anorexic, depressed, paranoid, just plain loopy, or all of the above. Crosby, Maine must be one hell-hole
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of a place to live.

Olive Kitteridge, retired school teacher, lives with her husband Henry, the town pharmacist and her son Christopher. Chris marries a woman whom Olive, naturally, hates. She has disparaging comments about everyone in town, which sometimes she bases on nothing more than rumor. Her husband tells her she has never apologized for anything. In the closing chapters, she admits this. So guess how many people, including her son, she called and tried to make amends? Zero. Olive is one of the most despicable characters I have encountered in quite a while. Why are people afraid to apologize – when they are wrong or even when right, and the dispute is not worth the loss of a friend? Is saving face that important? Is the possibility of appearing weak that repulsive?

However, the novel is well written. Numerous passages sprinkled throughout have a certain luster, a smooth polished surface that kept me reading. Here is one example:

“He was as much a stranger up here now as any tourist might be, and yet gazing back at the sun-sliced bay, he noted how familiar it felt; he had not expected that. The salt air filled his nose, the wild rugosa bushes with their white blossoms brought him a vague confusion; a sense of sad ignorance seemed cloaked in their benign white petals” (31).

I gather these chapters are intended as a collection of short stories, but does the reader need to be told in nearly every chapter that Olive Kitteridge taught math in seventh grade? Some more skillful editing would have helped this story become a bit more enjoyable.

All of these stars are strictly for the writing. 3 stars

--Jim, 5/29/11
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LibraryThing member goose114
A collection of short stories that all intertwine around Olive Kitteridge in some way. She may be directly involved in the story or is simply mentioned as a past teacher of the narrator. This stories focus on different characters with very different experiences and anecdotes. However the common
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thread between these stories is Olive Kitteridge. Olive Kitteridge is a character that really takes hold of you. Possibly because Olive is so realistic – her flaws, fears, doubts, happiness are all real for any person. A great read that will get you thinking about how an individual impacts another’s life even if for simple reasons.
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Pages

286

ISBN

0812971833 / 9780812971835
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