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Olive Kitteridge Paperback – September 30, 2008
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
*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 --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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This is one of the most outstanding novels I've ever read. I normally don't reread books, but this one will be the exception. Stout tells small stories about small people, in a small town, but none of this is small, because Stout reveals that all of our stories--and yes this is an every person type of book, are beautiful. Stout's empathetic authorial voice is beautiful. Beautiful is a word I use over and over describing this book. Her use of language is heart bracingly beautiful to the point where sometimes I had to put the book down just to absorb the profound pathos she describes.
I promised a short review, so I will conclude by saying my life has been enriched by reading this novel.
And that's all that's written about a heart attack. But the toll it takes on the couple is then written with graceful detail. Reading this book will make you feel like you recognize these people, and better still, recognize their feelings, their lives as your own.