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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 + Abide with Me: A Novel + Amy and Isabelle: 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
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Bookclub May 31 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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. Still not sure who Olive really is, a complex personality.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting May 17 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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 mind a more metaphorical representation for the Olive character than literal actualization. In that sense it works better for me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read and Revise - Your Own Life! April 13 2014
It's true that Olive's character challenges paved the way to her own unhappiness - but every path has sideroads!
Olive's story details the courage required to revise one's life: Olive pries open her eyes and unflinchingly tolerates what is revealed to her about herself, her relationship with her husband, son, students and townspeople. She then makes some astounding inner adjustments - a transformation I found moving and inspiring!

Eleanor Cowan, author of A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just a wonderful read. Nov. 24 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 and brimming with New England personality. There are 13 stories that are linked together by the main character Olive Kitteridge who is a blunt somewhat unlikable but humorous middle-aged school teacher. This book made me laugh and cry and most importantly it made me want to read on...
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Likeable Woman Oct. 27 2013
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." Olive is a person who I can resonate with on many levels. I think I would get along with her if I were to meet her. One of the greatest strengths of this book is that it weaves many narratives together to create a warm dialogue between lives. Olive comes out as a complex but clearly well meaning and kind individual.

In the process of telling the stories, the reader has the opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of the community where the stories take place. Simple everyday places like a pharmacy, or a donut shop or a nightclub become rich sources of life and, for me, comfort. The characters in each story are very human. They are simple, and in this way I can relate to them.

Writing a book review without spoilers is difficult, so I will leave it at that. A beautiful book.
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