Saturday, January 23, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge. I debated with myself throughout the book whether to say "kitt'ridge" or "kitt-er-idge". It annoys me when I'm not sure how to pronounce a name in a book. Here's a basic description of the book from Publishers Weekly:

Thirteen linked tales from Strout (Abide with Me, etc.) present a heart-wrenching, penetrating portrait of ordinary coastal Mainers living lives of quiet grief intermingled with flashes of human connection. The opening Pharmacy focuses on terse, dry junior high-school teacher Olive Kitteridge and her gregarious pharmacist husband, Henry, both of whom have survived the loss of a psychologically damaged parent, and both of whom suffer painful attractions to co-workers. Their son, Christopher, takes center stage in A Little Burst, which describes his wedding in humorous, somewhat disturbing detail, and in Security, where Olive, in her 70s, visits Christopher and his family in New York. Strout's fiction showcases her ability to reveal through familiar details—the mother-of-the-groom's wedding dress, a grandmother's disapproving observations of how her grandchildren are raised—the seeds of tragedy. Themes of suicide, depression, bad communication, aging and love, run through these stories, none more vivid or touching than Incoming Tide, where Olive chats with former student Kevin Coulson as they watch waitress Patty Howe by the seashore, all three struggling with their own misgivings about life. Like this story, the collection is easy to read and impossible to forget.

I should have taken the "thirteen linked tales" part a little more literally. It's sort of a collection of short stories with a few key characters appearing throughout. I'm not a fan of short stories, and this was no exception - at the end, there were so many characters I wondered about but had no resolution, and while reading it's hard for me to remember who's who. It just annoys me.

However. This book is very well-written. The characters are vivid and believable and relate-able. I wouldn't say I couldn't put it down, but I definitely enjoyed reading it. I would rate it a 4 out of 5 stars.


  1. LOL. The short story aspect is what I liked about it. I wish we had some kind of book club because it would be so much fun getting everyone feed back on the same book. ;-)

  2. I know Daisy, I wish the 52 books site had a search mechanism for just this purpose!