Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reading New England: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I'm doing some catch-up today for the Reading New England Challenge, hosted by Lory at Emerald City Book Review, as March was the month to read a book set in Maine.

My selection for the challenge--the Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (2007). Made up of a collection of thirteen short stories, the book tells the story of Olive Kitteridge, retired seventh grade math teacher and wife of Henry, a retired pharmacist, and some of the residents of  a small Maine town. 

A large woman, Olive appears to the world and often to those closest to her to be tough and uncompromising. Through Strout's stories, we learn just how complex she is.

I have several favorites of the stories such as Olive's happenstance meeting with a former student. I liked reading about Olive and Henry and the dynamics of their marriage, and especially about Olive's trip to New York City to visit their son. Also a favorite is Olive's encounter with an anorexic young woman. The poignancy of their conversation brought tears to my eyes. 

Olive is a thread that holds this collection of stories together. In a couple of the stories, Olive gets a mere mention. I found myself getting bored and wanting to know where Olive was and what she was doing.

Authentic is the word I'd use to describe Olive Kitteridge. The setting is the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine, with its best days behind it. Strout's working class characters grapple with real problems and the challenges of living and working in a town that doesn't offer much. 

I recommend Olive Kitteridge. I'd love to hear your thoughts about the book.


  1. I'm definitely reading this book this summer...even though I've already read my book set in Maine for Lory's Reading New England Challenge. This one sounds too good to miss. :)

  2. Glad you enjoyed this. I've loved all of Strout's novels.

  3. I know what you mean about wanting more Olive. Strout says she thought we needed a break from her, but I didn't feel that way. However, I did find it interesting to see a character from different points of view -- inside, outside but close, and a long way off.

  4. I loved this one:) You need to read her new book --so good.