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Olive Kitteridge: Fiction Hardcover – March 25, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very detailed description of characters with strange and difficult perosnalities. Olive herself is an enigma. She loves to find fault with everyone she meets. Read morePublished 1 day ago by elainehh
At over 1,500 reviews, I know my review won't make a difference, but I just wrote a negative review, so I felt the need to balance things out. I'll make this brief. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Ron Johnson
I enjoyed the book and how all the stories weaved together. The story has a number of messages and could apply to anyone. Read morePublished 4 days ago by C. david
No wonder this won the Pulitzer Prize! This is (officially) a short story collection. It's also a novel. So maybe it's a hybrid between the two. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Cathryn Conroy
Beautifully written. The story was somewhat sad at first, but eventually it's uplifting.Published 6 days ago by lovescatsandkids
Truly enjoyed these stories and the HBO series it inspired. Good read.Published 6 days ago by Marilyn Rocha
Have to agree with the reviewer who wrote the headline, "Is life really this bad?" Supremely well crafted, devoid of humanity, hope, and most of all love. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Uintah Springs
This was a very interesting and well written book. Strout creates characters and stories that are unforgettable. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Marie E. Gibson