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Olive Kitteridge Paperback – Sep 30 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (Sept. 30 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812971833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812971835
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 0.8 x 18.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #55,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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 Hardcover edition.


“Perceptive, deeply empathetic . . . Olive is the axis around which these thirteen complex, relentlessly human narratives spin themselves into Elizabeth Strout’s unforgettable novel in stories.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Fiction lovers, remember this name: Olive Kitteridge. . . . You’ll never forget her. . . . [Elizabeth Strout] constructs her stories with rich irony and moments of genuine surprise and intense emotion. . . . Glorious, powerful stuff.”—USA Today
“Funny, wicked and remorseful, Mrs. Kitteridge is a compelling life force, a red-blooded original. When she’s not onstage, we look forward to her return. The book is a page-turner because of her.”San Francisco Chronicle
Olive Kitteridge still lingers in memory like a treasured photograph.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Rarely does a story collection pack such a gutsy emotional punch.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Strout animates the ordinary with astonishing force. . . . [She] makes us experience not only the terrors of change but also the terrifying hope that change can bring: she plunges us into these churning waters and we come up gasping for air.”—The New Yorker

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Janet B TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 14 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a collection of thirteen short stories, all taking place in Crosby, Maine with the main character, Olive Kitteridge. She is the link that makes these stories read like a novel.

Olive Kitteridge is a retired math teacher in her 70s, married to Henry, a likeable retired pharmacist. Henry himself finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. They have an adult son named Christopher, a podiatrist. Olive loves her son to the point of being overly protective and possessive. This makes Christopher absolutely miserable, so miserable that he is seeing a therapist. Olive is a grouchy, bossy and pessimistic woman, who has a hard time adapting to change. She wonders why bad things only happen to her.

To some people in town, Olive is likeable, to others, she is controlling. People may say she doesn't care what people think about her, but the truth is she really does care. With time, she does eventually see more and more of herself, but it may be too late.

The many characters that we meet is Kevin Coulson, a former pupil of Olive, now a med student, who has returned to his home town. He is sitting in his car, watching the incoming tide and contemplating suicide. There is also Julia, who was jilted on her wedding day. Angie, the pretty alcoholic piano player, who is now in her 50s, single and in love with a married man. We also meet a grieving widow and a mentally ill woman, who never leaves her home and on it goes.

This book is beautifully written and straightforward. It explores the topics of loneliness, the lack of understanding between people, how behaviour can damage relationships and chase people away, aging and life and death.

I enjoyed this book immensely, particularly the colourful character of Olive Kitteridge, who made this book a winner. This book gets my highest recommendation of FIVE OUT OF FIVE STARS. Elizabeth Strout's book, Olive Kitteridge, is the winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Samantha TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 31 2011
Format: Paperback
I had no idea the book had won a Pulitzer when I put it on my wish list two years ago. I didn't read it until early 2011 and was delighted from the beginning. I found every story captivated me. Olive's presence in each is the glue that makes the novel whole. Often, she shows up surreptitiously, like Alfred Hitchcock in his films. Sometimes, she is the star. Always she makes a profound impact. Throughout, Olive is totally herself, imperfections on display. However, she's not just an irascible retired school teacher. Even though she's crotchety and difficult, she's also compassionate and wise. She's displayed in full colour. I don't always like her. But I care about her. Olive is real--complex. Then there's the stories themselves. The characters of Crosby, Maine are not extraordinary. Their stories aren't thrilling, Hollywood happy, or even complete, but they are exceedingly engaging. I read one story per day, drawing out the pleasure. I commend Ms. Strout for an inspired, subtle study of humanity. It matters not a whit to me where the stories were first published. The collection is suitably arranged and presented. This is not just good literature, it's good storytelling.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Coach C on April 27 2009
Format: Paperback
I admit that I did pick up this book because it won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I've never read any of Elizabeth Strout's work before but "Olive Kitteridge" is certainly an example of what great writing is. Not a novel, but really a collection of short stories, "Olive Kitteridge" is about the trials and tribulations of an elderly woman and the people around her -- it grapples with the big questions surrounding the human condition like tragedy, sorrow, and suffering, but also triumph, success, and love.

I think each story works extremely well on its own, but I do question whether as a collection it presents as well. Because each story was written for a different audience (Oprah Magazine to the New Yorker to Seventeen), the sum of the stories does not provide a cohesive narrative. Though one could argue that is the point of the book, I still think the holes in between leave quite a bit to be desired. Still, I think each story has a concrete message which is profound and far-reaching.

Overall, I would say I'm a little surprised this collection of short stories could win the Pulitzer Prize. But I do like Strout's writing, the stories are solid and there is definitely something in the book for everyone. Definitely a recommend read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gabriel Boutros on Jan. 14 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Sometimes the best books you read are the ones you know nothing about going in. Olive Kitteridge is one of those. Not so much a novel as it is a collection of 13 short stories set for the most part in the small town of Crosby, Maine. The eponymous Olive appears in all the stories: sometimes she is the central character, sometimes she plays a supporting role in the story, and often she makes barely a cameo appearance. The stories are all "small:" a man who marries a woman who doesn't get along with his mother; a young couple is destroyed by a car accident; a young woman gets a thrill from shoplifting. They are beautifully, yet simply, realized tales of people we're sure we've met somewhere during our lives. The strength of this book is the depth of the author's perception inside the characters who populate it: they are often deeply flawed, struggling to get through their lives, some with success, others not. Sometimes one just wants to grab them and shake them, yelling at them that life doesn't have to be this hard, but we know that, for so many, it is. Olive is a prime example: how happy is she over the 30 or so years that these stories span? It's hard to say; she rarely has a good thing to say about anything or anyone. People enter her life and leave them; sometimes she accepts these events stoically, often she sulks and blames others for her own errors. But she, above all the other characters, is so real, so well-defined, that we feel her losses even more acutely than she does (or at least more acutely than she is willing to admit), and we hope that at the end of her days she will have found some happiness.
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