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Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
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5394729,772 (4.29)70
"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..."* And now, indeed, Olive Kitteridge has returned, as indomitable as ever. "It turns out--I just wasn't done with Olive," said Strout. "It was like she kept poking me in the ribs, so I finally said 'Okay, okay...'" Now Olive returns, this time as a person getting older, navigating her next decade as she comes to terms with the changes--sometimes welcome, sometimes not--in her own life. Here is Olive, strangely content in her second marriage, still in an evolving relationship with her son and his family, encountering a cast of memorable characters in the seaside town of Crosby, Maine. Whether it's a young girl coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth at a baby shower, or a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, the irascible Olive improbably touches the lives of others. Elizabeth Strout has achieved greatness by brilliantly laying bare the inner lives of ordinary people, by focusing on the small moments of connection which can dislodge lifelong grief and longing, and unite her characters through moments of transcendent grace. Olive, Again is another lasting work of fiction by this remarkable writer, and a cause for celebration among readers everywhere.… (more)



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I wish I lived in Crosby, Maine! Perhaps then I’d personally know Olive Kitteridge. In, fact, I probably would – it’s that kind of small town. I think I’d like Olive. I hope she’d like me. We’re two older women who speak our minds; we’d probably be like stone on stone, flashing and sparking – and sharpening each other.

Olive, Again—which by now you know is a follow-up to Elizabeth Strout’s phenomenally successful Olive Kitteridge and is similar in structure to that first book—is a series of connected short stories about the people of one small town in Maine. Also as in the first book, not all of the stories focus on Olive, although the very best are the ones that do.

I was particularly moved by Motherless Child, in which Olive’s son and his family pay her a visit at what is (at least as implied to the reader) her invitation, to try to mend relationships. But Olive goes about it awkwardly, as you would expect from Olive. Although both Olive and her daughter-in-law attempt to be pleasant, there are uncomfortable moments; the connection between Olive and her son has its up and downs, and is a decidedly bumpy ride; her relationship with her step-grandchildren is uncomfortable from both sides. Strout draws all of these people so adroitly that my heart cried for all of them.

As Olive ages in this new book, the years pass far too quickly, and Olive shows her vulnerability more than she did in her first outing with us. In so doing, she makes it far easier to like her –even to love her. Anyway, I know that—by the time I finished Olive, Again—I loved Olive and was sorry to know that I won’t be visiting her again.

I received my ecopy of Olive, Again by request through NetGalley. This did not affect my review.
  ParadisePorch | Jan 13, 2020 |
‘Olive, Again’ by Elizabeth Strout is a return to the town of Crosby, Maine, and the life of Olive Kitteridge. Strout does it, again. If you loved the first iteration of Olive you will love this one too, it is like slipping into a sloppy pair of comfortable slippers. Olive lives her life, day by day; irascible, impatient with indulgence and self-importance, unsympathetic on the surface; but with a keen eye for those who need help, a kind word, a supporting hand under the elbow. But she cannot stand pseuds and snobs, though she fears she may be the latter.
Strout has such a light touch when handling difficult, deep emotions, set amongst the picture frame of predictable daily life. There are thirteen connected stories. Each feature Olive; in some she is the protagonist, in others she appears in the periphery of someone else’s life, always at a time of turmoil, grief, divorce or trauma. Often the people featured are former pupils from her years as a maths teacher, often they are friends or neighbours. In the course of this book, Olive mourns the death of Henry and struggles alone in the house they built together. She sleeps downstairs on the large window seat though she spends most of each night awake, listening to a transistor radio she cradles to her ear. Jack Kerrison is mourning the loss of his wife, Betsy. Olive and Jack have an on-off friendship, hearing each other’s travails with their children. Olive worries she was a bad mother and that Christopher avoids her, and she doesn’t know what to do to put it right. She is so prickly on the outside, sometimes on the inside too; but she is also empathetic, determined to be herself in the face of frightening change and old age.
My favourite scene is the one where Olive attends a baby shower, reacting with incredulity then impatience as each present is unwrapped and circulated endlessly around the guests who ooh and aah. Olive has a way of cutting through the crap. ‘She thought she had never heard of such foolishness in her life.’
Another 5* book by Strout.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Jan 12, 2020 |
There is a quiet paradox in that the narrative delivers clear comprehensible looks at the completely perplexing ways in which people, mostly, fail to comprehend themselves and others. Live becomes interlocked patterns, an emotional Chinese finger trap. Olive is of course wonderful. ( )
  quondame | Jan 10, 2020 |
I loved Olive and couldn't wait to read this one. Erk, I must be "not in the mood". Everybody is so abnormal and unhappy. I gave up half way through. It's cleverly written and I wanted to like it but just could not manage so much overwrought behaviour and sadness. ( )
  MarleneMacke | Jan 9, 2020 |
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In the early afternoon on a Saturday in June, Jack Kennison put on his sunglasses, got into his sports car with the top down, strapped the seatbelt over his shoulder and across his large stomach, and drove to Portland---almost an hour away---to buy a gallon of whiskey rather than bump into Olive Kitteridge at the grocery store here in Crosby, Maine.
So there was this, too: her son had married his mother, as so many men—in some form or other—eventually do.
Kayley could actually feel a small wave of pain go through her chest at times, and she would think: This is why they say a person's feelings are hurt, because they do hurt.
And it came to him then that it should never be taken lightly, the essential loneliness of people, that the choices they made to keep themselves from that gaping darkness were choices that required respect:
Maybe you fall in love with people who save your life, even when you think it's not worth saving.
I do not have a clue who I have been. Truthfully, I do not understand a thing.
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