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Olive Kitteridge [Paperback]

Elizabeth Strout
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 30 2008

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 of Crosby, Maine, 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.

Praise for Olive Kitteridge:

“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

Frequently Bought Together

Olive Kitteridge + Amy and Isabelle: A novel + Abide with Me: A Novel
Price For All Three: CDN$ 40.40

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Product Details

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.



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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Winner of 2009 Pulitzer Prize April 27 2009
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OLIVE K, A FORCE TO CONTEND WITH! March 14 2012
By Janet Babins TOP 100 REVIEWER
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In love with Olive March 31 2011
By Samantha TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre at best Aug. 21 2009
On the positive side,the character of Olive Kitteridge, a retired school teacher, was intriguing and captivating, if not down-right unusual by times. She made me chuckle and definitely believed in calling "a spade, a spade." However, she was truly the only charasmatic element throughout the entire book. Her husband, Henry, and son, Christopher, were rather boring, predictable and hum-drum. Other secondary characters, and there were several, were not well developed and left the reader feeling disinterested because there was not the opportunity to truly get to know them.

The stories of the various individuals who flowed through Olive's life, and this was the centre core of the book, had the potential to make for an inpsiring plot, but it just did not happen. It was as if the author was trying to cram too many characters and their into too few pages. Would I recommend the book - not on less it was from a library or could be found in a second-hand reading store. I did enjoy Olive though; she was the only element that breathed fresh air into the book.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Bookclub
Read this for bookclub. First time trough found it a bit odd and confusing, were all stories connected? Second time I read it was more interesting. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Olive Kitteridge weaves threads of the life of one woman through each unique chapter in the book. While Olive's personality seems inconsistent at times, I suspect the author had in... Read more
Published 5 months ago by connie epp
5.0 out of 5 stars Read and Revise - Your Own Life!
It's true that Olive's character challenges paved the way to her own unhappiness - but every path has sideroads! Read more
Published 6 months ago by Eleanor Cowan
5.0 out of 5 stars Just a wonderful read.
I LOVED this book. It was full of charm and wonderful characters. It's wonderful author Elizabeth Strout manages to put you right into the living rooms of people who are down home... Read more
Published 11 months ago by AMR
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Likeable Woman
One of the questions for reflection at the end of the book asks if I like Olive as a person. Now that I have finished the story I can say "Yes, I do. Read more
Published 12 months ago by mark Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars Winter Walking made easy.
Yak Track - superb ....no slip, great for snow and ice. Hope they never wear out. Yes, the very best.
Published 19 months ago by Clare Fuller
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written!
This is a great book, if somewhat sad. If you know New Englanders, you know this woman! I highly recommend this read.
Published 22 months ago by BCC Hiker
3.0 out of 5 stars Olive: overbearing but insightful
Olive Kitteridge, a retired teacher, is not a likeable woman by average standards. She is strong, obstinate, resolute, set in her views. Read more
Published on April 9 2012 by I LOVE BOOKS
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thoroughly Engrossing Read
I had no expectations for this book that a friend had dropped onto my table. I was engaged from the first chapter. Read more
Published on Aug. 8 2010 by Luvs2read
4.0 out of 5 stars Life with Olive
I must say that I loved the interwoven tales of life in and around Olive Kitteridge. Olive herself was everything from boorishly unlikeable to curiously empathic. Read more
Published on June 16 2010 by Debbie Wandler
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