Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout

Summary:In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge.

At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer’s eyes, it’s in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama–desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love.

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 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 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.
Summary and photo from barnesandnoble.com

My Review: This book is composed of the stories from the residents living in small town Crosby, Maine. Olive Kitteridge is one member of this little community and as the short stories within this novel unravel, she is found to be the common thread. Reading this book felt a little like people watching, which I'll admit I find to be a fairly enjoyable pastime. It was one of those books that I didn't want to put down and when I did I found myself yearning to read it.

The opening chapter is told from the viewpoint of Olive's husband. From there each chapter introduces a new set of characters whose lives have brushed with Olive's, many just briefly. Every other chapter jumps back to Olive's life, either told by her or her husband or son. The story spans most of Olive's adult life, coming to a close with Olive as an old woman. This writing style kept me interested in the story, but I was frustrated that the characters I had grown to care about disappeared from the story as quickly as they had entered it. This left the novel feeling slightly incomplete.

The story took an unfortunate turn during the last 100 pages of the book. The characters introduced at this point were rather odd and the choices the author had them make were ludicrous. I found myself groaning through the last few chapters of the book. However this does not discourage me from trying another book written by Elizabeth Strout. She has a marvelous writing talent that draws the reader into the fictitious world she has formed.

My Rating: 3 Stars

If I had to sum it up in one sentence: Similar to the life of Olive Kitteridge, this book has a promising beginning, entertaining middle and discouraging end.


MindySue said...

Can I say that before the page even completely loaded I thought "Oooooh, pretty cover!"

Madeleine said...

It is a beautiful cover, but then I am partial to sage.
I have the book on my TBR.

Lisa said...

Thanks for the honest review; it's not always easy to say that you didn't like something as well as everyone else. Makes you wonder if other people felt the same way that you did but were afraid to say they didn't think it was the greatest book of the year.


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