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Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
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Olive Kitteridge (2008)

by Elizabeth Strout

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,859432717 (3.92)341
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» See also 341 mentions

English (427)  Catalan (2)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (433)
Showing 1-5 of 427 (next | show all)
It’s no wonder that Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, won the Pulitzer Prize. A blend of short story and novel, it tells the stories of the inhabitants of Crosby, Maine, and how the milestones of life are not always marked by enormous events.

Olive Kitteridge is a collection of thirteen tales, each self-contained yet also part of a larger whole. We get glimpses into the lives of a piano player breaking off an affair, the owner of a hardware store trying to save an anorexic girl, and a suicidal psychiatrist returning to his home town. Strout’s language is exquisitely precise. She deftly describes the emotions of a passing moment as well as the aching years of longing that are part of being human. Enduring emotional isolation, the residents of Crosby, Maine, live lives of quiet desperation.

Across these tales moves Olive Kitteridge, a former math teacher. Abrasive, opinionated, aloof, Olive is like a single-masted cutter crossing through people’s lives. She is difficult to get to know, yet her presence in the town is pervasive. Residents can feel her enter a room. Some like her, others not so much, but they all have a grudging respect for her.

Olive’s own poignant story primarily focuses on her relationship with her son Christopher. In essence, it reveals how even those who appear indomitable are victims of personal insecurities. In “Security,” on entering her son’s New York brownstone, Olive experiences a sense of displacement:

“[She] followed him through a capacious, dark living room, into a small kitchen that was cluttered with toys, a high chair, pots spread over the counter, open boxes of cereal and Minute Rice. A grimy white sock lay on the table. And suddenly it seemed to Olive that every house she had ever gone into depressed her, except for her own … It was as though she had never outgrown that feeling she must have had as a child – that hypersensitivity to the foreign smell of someone else’s home, the fear that coated the unfamiliar way a bathroom door closed, the creak in a staircase worn by footsteps not one’s own.”

Strout pays attention to details; she paints individual portraits that become a larger landscape as the novel progresses. Life and death occurs, often in-between the stories, so that when we return to the characters, they have changed.

I read this book slowly because the details are so rich, and I wanted to let them sink in. When I read it again, and I will, I will have the pleasure of discovering new details and new connections across the cast of characters. Still, it is Olive herself who is the most compelling character. For all her abrasiveness, she truly is fascinating.
( )
  louis.arata | Jul 31, 2015 |
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the 13 short stories in this book are bound together by the title character, Olive Kitteridge. Olive has been a middle school math teacher in the small town of Crosby, Maine. A small town where everyone knows everyone, and they all have an opinion about Olive, who is sometimes abrasive, sometimes mean, sometimes full of compassion, and at most times afraid of getting old. She is loved by her mild mannered husband, Henry, and her grown son, Christopher, can't stand to be in her company for very long. There are stories that touch on love, suicide, anorexia, death, loneliness and murder. The stories are told with some humor, and even though you start out not really liking Olive, you finish the book rooting for her to find a little happiness.

Read Nov 2014 ( )
  NanaCC | Jul 26, 2015 |
This book tells the story of a small New England town. Through a collection of "vignettes", each one detailing an episode in the life of a person or family living in this small coastal town over three generations, allowing us some insight into the life of Olive herself. The tie binding them together is the title character. I found the book a little disjointed. Since there was no real plot to speak of, the "story" and characters were a little hard to follow. That being said (spoiler alert here) it did all come together for me in the end because I am a sucker for endings all tied up with a nice red bow.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
So, I only gave this 3 stars, but it was still an enjoyable read.

I had a little trouble bringing myself to like Olive. And, because the book is structured as a series of chapters that are each actually their own short story, occasionally it felt that the effort to somehow involve Olive in each story was a little contrived.

At this stage of my life I really like reading short stories, though, so the ability to treat each chapter as its own short story, without the immediate need to continue reading the novel, was a bonus. And some of the chapters were really good. ( )
  Phyllis.Mann | Jul 13, 2015 |
I have no desire to finish this book, except that I don't like to not finish. ( )
2 vote jenngv | Jun 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 427 (next | show all)
Each of the 13 tales serves as an individual microcosm of small-town life, with its gossip, small kindnesses, and everyday tragedies. Not all the minor characters stand out the way Henry and Olive do, and there are a pile of them to keep straight by the end. I also couldn’t quite place how one story, “Ship in a Bottle,” meshed with the rest. But those are small flaws far outweighed by the book’s compassion and intelligence.
 
The pleasure in reading “Olive Kitteridge” comes from an intense identification with complicated, not always admirable, characters. And there are moments in which slipping into a character’s viewpoint seems to involve the revelation of an emotion more powerful and interesting than simple fellow feeling—a complex, sometimes dark, sometimes life-sustaining dependency on others.
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Stroutprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burr, SandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For my mother who can make life magical and is the best storyteller I know.
First words
For many years Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summertime roads, when the wild raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy.
Quotations
Olive had sat in her bedroom and wept like a baby, not so much for this country but for the city itself, which had seemed to her to become suddenly no longer a foreign, hardened place, but as fragile as a class of kindergarten children, brave in their terror.
She showed him the library built the year before Henry's stroke, with its cathedral ceilng and skylights. He looked at the books, and she wanted to say, "Stop that," as though he were reading her diary.
Who, who, does not have their basket of trips.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
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 into a deeper understanding of herself and her life - sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

Stories:
Pharmacy
Incoming Tide
The Piano Player
A Little Burst
Starving
A Different Road
Winter Concert
Tulips
Basket of Trips
Ship in a Bottle
Security
Criminal
River
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

At the edge of the continent, in the small town of Crosby, Maine, lives Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher who deplores the changes in her town and in the world at large but doesn't always recognize the changes in those around her.

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