Olive Kitteridge Paperback – Sep 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 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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
I was delightfully surprised by these short stories. We experience Olive K., real, abrasive and brutally honest, giving voice to our own sentiments in diverse life phases and... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Esme McMonagle
Phenomenal characterization. Each story draws you in. Wish there was a bit more connection between each story (but then life isn't like that, so very real.)Published 3 months ago by Eeyore
Had it delivered within 2 days and I love the novel. It is worth readingPublished 4 months ago by Pen Name
Loved this Book. Elizabeth Strout can weave a tale. She brings it all home in one beautiful package. Its like a weekend with the family...Published 13 months ago by baldrick
I read it to please a friend. I appreciated the structural devices employed but these are not the kind of people I like to hang out with. Read morePublished 14 months ago by schreiber
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 morePublished 20 months ago by Amazon Customer