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Olive Kitteridge: Fiction Hardcover – March 25, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 2 edition (March 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140006208X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400062089
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. The opening Pharmacy focuses on terse, dry junior high-school teacher Olive Kitteridge and her gregarious pharmacist husband, Henry, both of whom have survived the loss of a psychologically damaged parent, and both of whom suffer painful attractions to co-workers. Their son, Christopher, takes center stage in A Little Burst, which describes his wedding in humorous, somewhat disturbing detail, and in Security, where Olive, in her 70s, visits Christopher and his family in New York. Strout's fiction showcases her ability to reveal through familiar details—the mother-of-the-groom's wedding dress, a grandmother's disapproving observations of how her grandchildren are raised—the seeds of tragedy. 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. Its literary craft and emotional power will surprise readers unfamiliar with Strout. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* “Hell. We’re always alone. Born alone. Die alone,” says Olive Kitteridge, redoubtable seventh-grade math teacher in Crosby, Maine. Anyone who gets in Olive’s way had better watch out, for she crashes unapologetically through life like an emotional storm trooper. She forces her husband, Henry, the town pharmacist, into tactical retreat; and she drives her beloved son, Christopher, across the country and into therapy. But appalling though Olive can be, Strout  manages to make her deeply human and even sympathetic, as are all of the characters in this “novel in stories.” Covering a period of 30-odd years, most of the stories (several of which were previously published in the New Yorker and other magazines) feature Olive as  their focus, but in some she is bit player or even a footnote while other characters take center stage to sort through their own fears and insecurities. Though loneliness and loss haunt these pages, Strout also supplies gentle humor and a nourishing dose of hope. People are sustained by the rhythms of ordinary life and the natural wonders of coastal Maine, and even Olive is sometimes caught off guard by life’s baffling beauty. Strout is also the author of the well-received Amy and Isabelle (1999) and Abide with Me (2006). --Mary Ellen Quinn

More About the Author

Elizabeth Strout is the author of the New York Times bestseller Olive Kitteridge, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the national bestseller Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine and New York City.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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Customer Reviews

Strout did a masterful job of character development in this novel told in stories.
BeachReader
I found the stories VERY depressing for the most part and the main character is a complete BAG!!!
Geraldine
I guess I would like to have read one story in the book that had a completely happy ending.
Karen Wingoof

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

984 of 1,008 people found the following review helpful By Linda J. Sexauer on March 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am not normally a fan of short stories. While I appreciate the technical abilities of the short story writer, I find "shortness" troublesome. Generally, the longer a book is, the more appealing. Consequently, I was initially leery of the descriptions of Elizabeth Strout's newest novel, "Olive Kitteridge," which calls itself "a novel in stories."

All of the stories in this book occur in the town of Crosby, Maine. At the center of many of the book's stories is the person, Olive Kitteridge, a retired teacher. In the stories that don't feature Olive, her name may appear only once in an effort to tie it to the larger work. That the stories center on one town, and a limited number of that town's inhabitants, who also reappear from time to time, I did not encounter my usual problems with short stories. This book gently reminded me of what is best about short-stories: a brief slice of a life, a snapshot that tells a complete-enough story. In having all these stories bound together, one feels a bit like the proverbial "fly on the wall"; a fly who may spend most of, but certainly not all, it's time in one particularly interesting home (Olive's).

I especially enjoyed reading about Olive in her post-retirement years, the ways in which she deals with other people and herself. In many ways, I can identify with Olive, having doled out bits of malice in angering situations; or having been soft and tender-hearted during others. Like Olive, I too have been both fool and sage.

I really enjoyed "Olive Kitteridge." Olive is a complex person vacillating between viciousness and compassion. In the way all people are puzzles, so is Olive. In one story she does something deplorable, in another she potentially saves a life.
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288 of 312 people found the following review helpful By Brett Benner VINE VOICE on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These stories of small town life in Maine linked through one woman, Olive Kitteridge are so emotionally honest and resonated so deeply, I felt literally fragile after I finished. I bought the book knowing nothing about it besides the fact the stories were linked, based merely on how much I had loved her previous novel, 'Abide With Me'. I liked this even more. I adored the character of Olive so much, and could almost see her in front of me when she opened her mouth to speak. Strout is an exceptionally writer who mines human emotion for literary gold. Highly, highly recommended.
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375 of 411 people found the following review helpful By MystinaMarie on May 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Having read all three Elizabeth Strout novels, I'd place Olive Kitteridge behind the other two. Do not get me wrong, Strout is still an exceptional writer, weaving you into each chapter and describing things beautifully.

You know that feeling when you're just starting a book? Getting acquainted with the characters? Trying to remember their names, their personalities, what they look like and the surroundings are just coming into focus? This entire book has that feeling because essentially each chapter is a different story. With the exception of Olive, you never hear about a character beyond one chapter. It's as if twenty books were collected, a chapter ripped from each, and placed in this single book. You're introduced, learn the character and are drawn to their story and then it's onto somebody else, never to return and find any conclusions.

I just did not like the separation between story lines. True, this is meant to be a small town collaboration, with Olive as the center character, but sometimes it was a stretch. One particular chapter only mentions Olive once, in a fragment of a sentence that just mentions Olive was the character's teacher in school. Sometimes it just didn't seem the connection was enough to warrant that particular character's inclusion of the story of Olive and ended up being more of a distraction than an addition.

There are also a lot of overlapping details and re-telling of facts. Each person knows Olive, so you hear numerous times her description and certain facts in her life, concerning her marriage or her son. At the end you are very connected to Olive and it is a wonderful character and story.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Stacey M Jones on April 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout is a "novel" of short stories, some of which have appeared in magazines like the New Yorker and Ms. The stories tell of small-town Maine residents who all struggle with relationships and, really, the quest to feel known. Each story can and could stand alone, but the book doesn't read like a collection of separate works, but rather as a description of people of a common place (Maisy Mills, Maine), who all know a common character (Olive Kitteridge) and who all struggle with the fundamental problem of the author's theme, trying not to feel alone, completely alone.

Many of the stories do deal with Olive or her family directly, and we come to know her throughout the book, through her husband's experience of "crushing" on an employee in the first story to her own experiences as she ages and her life changes by the final story. But in other stories, she is a minor character, perhaps mentioned briefly as the main character's former math teacher in high school or as someone another character does not like.

And this aspect become fundamental and almost a secondary theme of the book. As Olive herself remembers her own serious flirtation with another man ("... she had the sensation that she had been seen. And she had not even known she'd felt invisible" [p. 213].), and progresses through later stages of life, we come to see that she is not perfectly lovable -- or perhaps not lovable at all, up close. But she still needs intimacy. "Sometimes, like now, Olive had a sense of just how desperately hard every person in the world was working to get what they needed" (p. 211). She is an emotional anti-hero, and through Strout's tender writing, we do love her.

One of my favorite stories was "Starving" which deals nimbly with all of these subjects, and doesn't feature Olive primarily. Strout's writing is straight-forward, but thoughtful and tender. These people became real to me. I miss them now that I have finished the book.
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