Cynthia's Reviews > Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
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's review
Jul 11, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: books-read-in-2009
Read in July, 2009

"I am's who I am's" Popeye sometime in the '30's

Most books explore how difficult it is to know others. OK centers more on how difficult it is to know yourself which is what OK grapples with in these related stories. She's central in some of the stories, in others she's merely backdrop. There were some Anita Brookner overtones to OK starting with recurring themes that are looked at from many different angles but they never seem to get old. In one story OK startles her husband of many decades when she apologizes to him. He gazes at her in amazement and says he thinks that's the first time she's EVER apologized to him. What's really funny/sad is OK is more shocked by his statement and what it says about her than he is at her apology.

In another story OK spends time with her middle aged adjacent son who's just starting a family. Her son describes his upstairs tenant to her. When she meets this tenant at the local dog park however she can't reconcile her son's description of the man with her own perceptions of him. Sadly this is a metaphor for the divergent views that mother and son hold of their relationship. Olive saw herself as a loving mother but her son had been scared of her passionate, demonstrative parenting approach. This is echoed in other characters some of who were her former math students. Those students were in two camps, the ones who were afraid of her and those who were afraid of her but also loved and respected her. OK is one of those officious, bossy people who never seem to doubt themselves. She also has the ability to shock others with the intensity of her caring. When she and some other neighbors try and help a troubled anorexic girl it's OK whose heart is most touched by the girl's tragedy. She's also the leader on how to help the girl in a practical sense. All the stories but one are set in a small town in Maine where everyone knows or at least assume they know everyone else. The action is set against the discrepancy of this knowing vs. the assumptions.
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Quotes Cynthia Liked

Elizabeth Strout
“What young people didn't know, she thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm; oh, what young people did not know. They did not know that lumpy, aged, and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly . . . No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn't chose it. And if her platter had been full with the goodness of Henry and she had found it burdensome, had flicked it off crumbs at a time, it was because she had not know what one should know: that day after day was unconsciously squandered. . . . But here they were, and Olive pictured two slices of Swiss cheese pressed together, such holes they brought to this union--what pieces life took out of you.”
Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

Elizabeth Strout
“He put the blinker on, pulled out onto the avenue. "Well, that was nice," she said, sitting back. They had fun together these days, they really did. It was as if marriage had been a long, complicatd meal, and now there was this lovely dessert.”
Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

Reading Progress

07/04/2009 page 88
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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Maria Strout is this good?

Cynthia I adored this book. I haven't read either of her other two. OK is a retired math teacher with one son and she's a hoot.....such a personality, definite about her opinions but very loving.

Maria Okay. The list gets longer.

Barbara I haven't read this, but your review is so nicely detailed I am encouraged to do so.

Cynthia I was really impressed with it but from what I'm reading on amazon her other two books were even better.

Maria Great review, Cynthia. I'd written more and you may get it but it disappeared from my screen before I finished so who knows. Any comparison to Brookner I like.

Barbara Is there a particular Brookner book that you would recommend?

Cynthia She won the Booker for Hotel du Lac but I'm enjoying Making Things Better right now.


Maria I loved Hotel du Lac. I'll read many more of hers.

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