I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and I ve struggled since to find the reasons why Elizabeth Strout s Olive Kitteridge struck me so deeply So let me start by just saying this book was awesome Appreciating the reasons why, however, required from me considerable introspection The subtlety of its beauty is indeed the mark of a great novel.I came to this book reluctantly and I m not sure why anything with a Pulitzer usually draws me like a bear to honey but perhaps it was due to the structure I m not a fan, by nature, of the novel in stories format Sure, I loved A Visit from the Goon Squad but that was the exception proving the rule for me To make matters worse here, the first chapter in Olive Kitteridge introduces us to the title character and she s just not a very nice person, at least where her treatment of her husband is concerned Strout s use of the novel in stories form, however, is pitch perfect for the fundamental story she tells She introduces us to a title character who appears to be considerably less than worthy as the subject of an entire novel Then, through the use of deeply honest and insightful chapters about nearly unrelated characters, she paints a picture of this character that is infinitely richer than I originally assumed And here is the beauty of Strout s use of this form she lead me to discover that the assumptions I d made about a complex human being as each inherently is were necessarily as narrow as the context of their formulation Strout s character development is a subject worthy of a college course Throughout Olive Kitteridge she introduces us to characters whose situations resonate and whose responses to those situations are as believable as they are often maddening And through it all, Olive Kitteridge s impact on those characters and their lives comes peeking through again and again until I begin to realize, Wow, this woman, for whom I didn t care so much, has had a profoundly positive impact on her world.And this, I think, brings us to the real genius behind Elizabeth Strout s work in Olive Kitteridge She has taken the novel in stories and used it to introduce us to the many diverse and far flung characters upon whose disparate lives her title character has imparted some bit of change, some bit of love, or wisdom, or influence, and in doing so Strout has shown that we are infinitely complex creatures who, no matter how long or short our duration on this plane, will leave change in our wake The character Olive Kitteridge was recognizable as much for her inherent nobility as for her glaring flaws and she reminded me of this Though people are complicated, often less than noble, always imperfect creatures, each of us has profound significance in this world And for that wonderful bit of enlightenment, I ll never forget her As did Winter Wheat , this book altered my view of humanity and, for that, I feel both oddly indebted she is make believe, after all to Olive Kitteridge and deeply grateful for the work of Elizabeth Strout. Olive Kitteridge is a Pulitzer Prize winning collection of stories that constitute a novel They are not as closely woven together as the multi generational tales in works by Louise Erdrich, another writer who likes to collect small parts into a larger whole, but Strout has put together a compelling portrait of a small town I was reminded of Spoon River, as we learn some of the secrets each of the main characters protects Lake Wobegon came to mind, as well It most resembles Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson s joined tales of alienation in small town America Olive Kitteridge is the organizational core connecting the thirteen stories She appears in each one, sometimes as a primary character, sometimes as a secondary and in others by one of the characters referring to her Elizabeth Strout from her fans FB siteLoneliness was the predominant theme in the town of Crosby, Maine, loneliness or the fear of it Most of the stories touch on relationships sagging, empty or gone, getting through emotional hard times and wondering if it is all worth the effort There is a chilly New England sensibility here, characters that are unable to move past their stiff upper lips Communication is guarded, often absent, but always made manifest in actions, if not words Some succumb to their worst impulses, others find their way through to some sort of reconciliation with life s travails Yet hope pops up just as frequently, like crocuses in March Frances McDormand as Olive from a NY Times article on the actressOlive journeys through her trials, her marriage, her relationship with her son, her potential marital digression She seems clueless as to her effect on others, and can be glaringly harsh, while displaying the capacity for kindness and understanding.The writing is brilliant, taut, dense, a torte, and thus, a joy A short story writer s talent for telling large amounts in small spaces, repeated 13 times Personally, I felt the tales had maybe a bit too much resonance I recognized emotions, if not always specific situations, and yeah, some specific situations too that I have experienced, and saw through the eyes of a third party experiences that were likely to have been a part of the history of people in my life Is it a good thing that a writer can make you squirm through such recognition Olive grows as a character, gaining some self awareness, softening some hard edges, finding some light in a dark place November 2019 I just re read Olive in anticipation of reading the sequel This book blew me away on the second reading too EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author s personal, Twitter and FB pagesThe facebook link is to a fan site, not to Strout herselfHere is the Official Site for the HBO productionA nice profile of Strout on Wiki11 3 14 I saw the 1st episode of the HBO series dazzling Must see Posted at Shelf InflictedThis is a collection of stories about a group of ordinary people living in a small town in Maine, their joys, sorrows, tragedies and grief, all centered around the main character, Olive Kitteridge Normally, this is the kind of fiction I stay away from I was afraid it would be an overwrought melodrama about provincial people living in a boring town Yet, I was so absorbed by the lives of these people and had a difficult time putting the book down.The characters were very well developed, the town vividly described, and the emotions raw Olive Kitteridge left me feeling very unsettled I admire her quiet strength, her forthrightness, her realistic views of life, and the fact that she controls her emotions I hate her brusqueness, her self centeredness, and her difficulty with accepting changes She was a complex character, definitely not your stereotypical cranky old lady Each story is presented from different viewpoints and shows Olive s many sides as she interacts with family, neighbors and friends, as she experiences age, loneliness, grief and love The characters are realistically drawn with such an emotional depth that I found I could easily identify with them and even see similarities to people I know Olive Kitteridge makes me hate those qualities in myself that are like hers and makes me look at others with patience and a less judgmental eye. Today s the big day my 500th review for Goodreads Drum roll, please Hmmm No drum roll No compensation No accolades, either Ah, hell I don t care I just want to read and write and read and write and read and write, and almost every review I ve ever written here on Goodreads, from the completely anonymous to the refreshingly well received, has made me want to click my shiny red heels with joy.And I don t need to close my eyes and intonate there s no place like home, there s no place like home, because I could be anywhere in this world, and, as long as I have a book or a pen in my hand, I am home.There are few living writers today that take me home in the way that Elizabeth Strout does, or in the way that Olive Kitteridge did Or, I should clarify so few living writers today who can take me home AND make me homesick for a place I ve never found, at the same time It s a rare accomplishment.In truth, the woman pisses me off.Who does she think she is, sitting there, staring at her blank screen, dreaming up 13 short stories that come together as a novel that brilliantly gives you enough glimpses of one woman, one Olive Kitteridge to give her the staying power to become iconic And go on to be immortalized by Frances McDormand in the 2014 miniseries that is not to be missed.Who does she think she is, dreaming up characters you either love or hate in this quirky town of Crosby, Maine, and making you think that you might want to live in that God forsaken, bitter cold place Who does she think she is, making you hate Olive, then seeing yourself so vividly in her, you must put the book down for a moment to stare at your fidgety fingers in discomfort Poor Olive, she didn t like to be alone Even , she didn t like being with people Poor Olive, realizing that deep down there is a thing inside her and sometimes it swells up like the head of a squid and shoots blackness through herPoor Olive, she would have sat on a patch of cement anywhere to have this her son a bright buoy bobbing in the bay of her own quiet terror.Poor Olive, How could anyone be afraid of her She was the one who was afraid I connected and related to Olive so deeply, I spoke out loud to her a few times, during this re read I wanted her to know that I understood, that I often felt the same way I didn t want her to feel alone.This isn t a perfect novel A couple of the stories that have too little Olive in them lag but I wasn t looking for perfection, just the absence of pretension.No pretension here, people Just the pure act of writing without judgement and a story that clearly emerged from the deepest, loneliest passages of Elizabeth Strout s gut.This is one of those stories that takes you home, to that imperfect place you call home here on earth, and, yes, you re going to get a little homesick once you get there, too. I don t quite understand what the hubbub was about this book it did after all get a Pulitzer and TV show However, I felt that the writing was ok, the narration was interesting, but I never even came close to feeling some sympathy or connection to Olive like I did for Updike s Rabbit Angstrom or, say, Bellow s Dean Corde The New England she describes as anti Semitic and full of silent scandals was interesting and fun in, say Updike s Witches of Eastwick It was a little unsettling and disappointing to leave most of the stories in suspension if not all of them and I felt that the Christopher character and his two wives were pretty two dimensional The overall aura was oppressive and depressing I am not sure I would come back to this one.I have now read all the Pulitzers from 2011 and 4 from the previous decade and I d have to say that this one, The Known World by Edward P Jones and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr were all disappointingI wonder what the list will look like for 2017 Anyone read City on Fire for which the first time author got an astonishing 2M advance from the publisher This novel is definitely about Olive Kitteridge who she is, who she was, and most importantly, the who that she sees within herself.Her story is told through a series of connected stories friends, neighbours, past students, people she knows in passing It is interesting, and oh, so intriguing, that many people view her from so many different perspectives, yet there are also common threads of viewpoint.Many of the stories are not about Olive Kitteridge at all, yet she moves in and out of each story sometimes as a presence to be reckoned with, sometimes like a wraith, sometimes as someone who is or was feared, sometimes as someone to be pitied or even scorned.Elizabeth Strout s writing is confident and strong, as are some of her characters She allows us to feel the full impact of these character s personalities On the surface, these are people we could meet and experience in our everyday lives Elizabeth Strout takes us on a journey that skims the surface and then takes us deeper and deeper into the characters their thoughts, feelings the inner lives where all is definitely not as it appears at first glance.The psychological depths are fascinating because although the spotlight shines on one or two characters per chapter or story , it is often in how others respond or react to them that we gain the most insight And it is those insights that gave me further insight into myself and my own family and friends.Although this is primarily Olive Kitteridge s story, it illustrates so well that no matter how isolated one feels, or lonely, or oppressed, or confused, or blissfully oblivious, not one of us is an island The world, the people in it we are all in motion and that motion has impact ours on others and others on us.This is a novel whose stories can be found everywhere, and we are so fortunate that Elizabeth Strout s gift brings us that realization, but also envelopes us in our shared humanity and tells us it is okay to be who we are and to continue growing into who we want to be. Winner Of The Pulitzer Prize, Olive Kitteridge Offers Profound Insights Into The Human Condition Its Conflicts, Its Tragedies And Joys, And The Endurance It RequiresAt 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 Oh bestill my heart I am not worthy I AM NOT WORTHY How, in the name of all that is holy, does Elizabeth Strout do it I mean, how does she create a book out of a collage of stories, linked by one exceptionally prickly, ornery yet honest character, through writing that is at once complex and invitingly simple HOW This 2009 Pulitzer winner is fully deserving of its accolades and superfans I read this with keen interest and pleasure all the way through It s a collection of 13 stories which could stand alone, but which are linked because they take place in the same small community of Crosby, Maine and feature either prominently or in the background caustic but decent Olive Kitteridge Each story is so intimate Through the everyday lives of these people, Strout delves deep into the heart Almost to the point where I felt I was reading someone s diary I really felt I knew these people.I ve heard complaints that this book is depressing Really Have you looked at real life, lately God For some reason after I finished reading this book I thought about some long time family friends Friends of my parents both teachers, lovely people He played organ at their church She kept their beautiful home neat as a pin They had two kids, one of which has Down syndrome and who still lives with them part time today at the age of 38 As the years went on, she developed migraines and a heart condition Then their house was lost in a flood and they got no insurance money, had to start over financially at retirement age Their relationship with their daughter is complex and often unpleasant, so it s not always easy to see their three grandchildren He has now been diagnosed with Alzheimer s So it goes This is life it s not always pretty It s not easy We all struggle and go through the shit And in the midst of the shit, there are these revelatory, redemptive moments Maybe they are private moments, maybe not Maybe they don t change the trajectory of our lives, maybe they do But they make it all worthwhile And that is just what Strout captures so brilliantly the human experience. It s incredibly difficult to find substance in the ordinary This novel in episodes, all revolving around the ever enigmatic Olive, does something extraordinary each tale is so rich with description, so tangible I believe I breathed in the saltiness of the Maine coast, practically that they transcend There is actually nothing innovatory in Elizabeth Strout s fantastic short story collection but she knows perfectly well how to orchestrate a fabulous and gut wrenching short story every single one of her thirteen becomes a flawless portrait in of itself In the fictional town of Crosby, Maine, the skeletons in the denizen s closets include thoughts of suicide, deaths, marriages, affairs Somehow, the only other writer that s able to manifest this type of impact on the reader is Jhumpa Lahiri it is little coincidence that her beauty of a novel, Interpreter of Maladies like Olive Kitteridge also won the Pulitzer The literature of today is about strong, emotionally charged episodes, readings as comforting as donuts a motif in the novel to the reader The theme shall never become a cliche To appreciate what you have when you have it, regardless of your age or gender Everyone s human after all don t know if it was me being meditative or moody or under the sobering influence of the recession, but i found this absolutely gorgeous book SO DAMN SAD there are, let s see, at least two suicides but it might be three, three deaths but it might be one the death of a very young person , intolerably sad aging folks, a myriad broken relationships, and a ton of god awful loneliness how can a town as sweet and stably populated as crosby, maine, foster so much loneliness aren t small towns supposed to be all about people knowing each other and supporting each other and all that why don t the lonely people go hang out at the diner and have themselves a cup of coffee, chat the day away i mean, really i understand being alone in miami or new york or los angeles, but how can you be so lonely in crosby, maine i guess american writers and filmmakers have worked very hard at showing us that you can be plenty lonely in small town america, but somehow this is sinking in now for the first time, thanks to Olive Kitteridge i think i ll stay in the big city, where at least you can be lonely with some privacy, out of the probing gaze of your gossiping neighbors but see, gossip is this two sided thing one the one hand, it can cut you down and shrink you if you let it on the other, it keeps people talking when someone dies, everyone shows up at the funeral when someone goes to the hospital, everyone asks after them maybe the person who is asked would rather be left alone, but there s something to be said in favor of being asked this is actually the point of one of these thirteen stories a gossiping community is a community in which everyone is mourned there is no indifference and almost never glee at people s death, however disliked they may have been in life groups come together for the death of their own this is something to be said for small towns and after all, no one is immune to loneliness it s the human condition which is precisely why this book is so sad one would rather not be reminded.in one lovely scene there are countless lovely scenes in this book olive kitterdidge finds out that an elderly man, an out of towner she stopped to talk to, just lost his wife of a lifetime then you are in hell, she says, matter of factly then i am in hell, he replies olive kitteridge, the nominal protagonist of this novel in stories, is a masterpiece of writerly wisdom she is wrong and intolerable in all sorts of ways she is rude, judgmental, selfish, a bad mother, and a bad wife she is ungainly and has bad taste in clothing she is one of those people who, by rights, should not be much liked, and in fact she isn t but to us she is us if we were her, we d find a way to come to terms with ourselves and be proud of at least something so we come to terms with olive kitteridge we forgive her we forgive ourselves we return over and over to the things she we did well, that one time when she we saved a person s life without much awareness of what we were doing that other time when this kid who didn t talk to anyone talked to her us it s amazing how a novel that does not focus entirely on one character in some of the stories she is just named once or twice should manage to make this character, nonetheless, so real and compelling the compulsion is to identify with her but maybe it was me, bummed and worried about the recession and not too pleased with myself i identified identification is the path to compassion this book helped me be see others, maybe myself too, with a little compassion.