Friday, August 7, 2009

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

This book has been on my mental to-read list for awhile and I finally found it in at the library. I suggested it to my book club to read and I thought perhaps I should pre-read it to see what I got everyone into.

The book began slowly for me, then I got involved with the characters and loved it.

Olive Kitteridge is set up in thirteen different vignettes, each one giving us just a little bit more information about Olive and her husband, Henry in Crosby, Maine. This book made me think; information is doled out in small snippets and even then you need to read between the lines to fully understand how each person fits into the big picture. Olive is not a friendly character yet I grew to love her and her gruffness. The book slowly winds you from one part of Henry and Olive's lives together, finishing with Olive alone, having learned something of herself. I can understand why this book won the Pulitzer Prize as it is a real snapshot of American culture. The characters are human and believable and this is the meat of everyday.

Here are two of my very favorite quotes from the book:

"That's what Kathleen says. Tim met her when he was driving around the country following some band. I guess people just follow this band around, Fish or Pish. Something. Remember Kevin talking about Dead Heads, people who followed around that mess-what were they called? The Grateful Dead? I always found that offensive."
"He died," said Harmon. "That fat fellow Jerry of that band."
"Well, I hope he died gratefully," Bonnie said. (pg. 89)


In the doctor's waiting room she sat, reading a magazine. After an hour, the nurse came out and said, "Mr. Kennison's worried about you waiting so long."
"Well, tell him to stop it. I'm perfectly comfortable." And she was. In fact, it had been a long time since she'd been this comfortable. She wouldn't have minded if it took all day. It was a newsmagazine she was reading, something she hadn't done for quite a while-she turned one page quickly, because she couldn't stand to look at the president's face. His close-set eyes, the jut of his chin, the sight offended her viscerally. (pg. 255)

The idea of someone being more comfortable in a doctor's waiting room office than somewhere in her own life is so very much Olive. To understand why you'll have to read the book!!

Here is the NY Times article about Olive Kitteridge.