Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Olive Kittredge

Olive Kittredge, by Elizabeth Strout. Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Oh, dear. This book is not always pleasant, but it tells some truths about life and the way people really are.

I read a book review in which the reader/writer said that she didn't like the book because she didn't like Olive. I thought, exactly--the things we don't like about Olive are just the kind of things that people wouldn't like about me if they only knew!

Revealed through a series of short stories, different truths about Olive begin to pile up. You might decide that your first impression was wrong, then you will be introduced to and possibly confused by yet another facet of this woman. You might decide you don't know what to think about her since she is, by turns, a person you want to sympathize with and someone you want to shake; someone you might trust with your secrets and someone you might not want to be in the same room with.

Here, laid out before you (like starfishes drying above the tide line), are all the arguments showing that a person has many facets and can only partially be known by any other single person. You might just have to admit some truths about life in general and about yours, specifically. It's that kind of book. But oh, dear, not pleasant reading. Just reading that keeps you up at night. As some of Olive's Maine coast neighbors might say, in that terse way of theirs: Might make you laugh. Might make you cry.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book. They could be spoilers if I told you when and in what circumstances they appear, but I like how they resonate:

Didn’t plan on things working out like this.

But people endure things.

Sometimes, like now, Olive had a sense of just how desperately hard every person in the world was working to get what they needed.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Hi, Clair. Sorry not to have commented in a while. Been through some stuff.

Olive Kitteridge is one of my top five most memorable characters ever. Quite a book. My one quibble is how the author left a few things hanging---like what happened to the fellow contemplating suicide? And the woman he jumped in to save?

Your post below was hilarious. That last picture had me laughing out loud.