Review: Olive Kitteridge

November OBC Selection
2009 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction Winner
I have wanted to read this book for a while (since it was first published actually), when it won the Pulitzer I knew it would be added to our reading list since my local book group which really enjoys reading smart/award winning books.
Elizabeth Strout is the author of three novels: Abide with Me, Amy and Isabelle, and Olive Kitteridge. Recipient of many awards, including the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker and O: The Oprah Magazine. She is on the faculty of the MFA program at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and lives in New York City. (Source: Random House)
This is the story of Olive Kitteridge and is told in short stories. I was pulled into the book in the first few chapters, a story to with a story told by her husband. You might question if Olive really loves her husband as you read the book. She also appears to have a stiff relationship with her only son and she awkwardly moves through life. I do not want to give away the story but can tell you this is one of the best Pulitzer Winner’s I have read and I highly recommend this book.
Watch for another post after my book club discusses the book later this year.

Here’s a review I found on BN.COM that I thought summarized the book:I have long been a fan of Elizabeth Strout, but was not sure that I'd like this book because it's a collection of short stories. However, I soon fell in love with the book and the character, Olive Kitteridge, although she really isn't very likable. The author's short stories take place in a small town and Olive pops in and out among the town people, even if her appearance is so minor as walking through a restaurant lobby. I loved the way Olive's personality was perceived so differently through the eyes of each character and the effect she had on each.

Elizabeth Strout has crafted a series of short stories revolving around Olive Kitteridge, a retired math teacher in a small town along Maine's coast. In many of the stories she is barely present, yet is always an influence on the characters. Like her or loathe her, the reader cannot be indifferent to Olive, or totally unsympathetic. One of the most intense and memorable stories is "A Different Road", about a traumatic experience in which Olive falls briefly in love with a most unlikely character. Olive's dysfunctional relationships with just about everyone, especially her husband and son, are often ineffably sad, but with occasional hints of redemption. Each story is completely absorbing.

Interviews of interest:- Audio interview at BN.COM
- Winning the Pulitzer
- A conversation with Charlie Rose
Type: Fiction, 286 pages, Trade paperback
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.
Reviews:“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