Strout is such a good writer that when I heard she had a new one out I went to buy it without even knowing the title, let alone the plot. And while she is still a wonderful writer, she seems to have reduced herself (prematurely, I would hope) to the pre retirment plan of Maeve Binchy; the incredibly unpleasant world of the multiple narrative novel.
Her characters are sketched very well and her use of language pulls you in, but I really hate these snippets that aren't short stories, aren't novels - so what are they? Characters I meet briefly but in the context of a longer work so that the impact is all the more contrived, and one or two recurring people who become so tiresome and (Olive in particular) really unlikeable that you feel cheated for having this be the protagonist. It's very hard to feel attached to a book like this, and I would've minded less if it had been a book of short stories.
I gave it three stars because it is still very readable and maybe if you know going in what the deal is it is less bothersome. The other drawback though is that it's really depressing - there is a thread of suicide running throughout as well as an emphasis on loneliness, and Oliva can really really be hateful, and Strout's attempts to make her sympathtic come way too late in the work.