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Group Read Book Discussions > Olive Kitteridege

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message 1: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2510 comments Mod
Starting a thread for this discussion. Are you an Olive? :)


Elizabeth (Alaska) LOL I'm less of an Olive for having read this when it was first released. When you have that kind of mirror put in front of you, you tend to put on a different hat.


Jade (Miss_Jade) I'm definitely not an Olive but my mother in law is!


Sandra (Sandee) | 327 comments I sure try not to be. She is so negative, but yet she has a good heart...so maybe I am half an Olive


Sandra (Sandee) | 327 comments There are those little glimpses of Olive that come out that really make you think about her character and want to know her on a deeper level. I haven't finished the book yet, but in the story about the girl with an eating disoroder...Olive broke my heart.


Gillian | 618 comments Oh I think a prequel would be wonderful! It would be nice to learn more about why Olive is the way she is.


Elizabeth (Alaska) When I read this the first time (and I am in the middle of a re-read), I didn't realize that these stories were written over a long period. Some of them were published in various magazines starting in 1992.


message 8: by Jade (last edited Feb 01, 2011 01:32PM) (new)

Jade (Miss_Jade) Brenda (Lansdowne) wrote: "I think she was misunderstood by people. The relationship with her son suffered the most b/c of it (IMHO). Y..."

It didn't seem like she got close enough to anyone for them to understand her. She had a problem expressing her feelings and it came out in destructive ways - such as taking her daughter in law's shoe, eating too much, being negative. Only her husband understood her and really loved her. She took him for granted until it was too late. It was really sad about Henry - I kept imagining that happening to my husband. It's important to tell the people you love how much you care about them because you never know what will happen.

But is it just me or did anyone else notice there was a lot of cheating going on in that small town?


Viola | 979 comments I'm definitely not an Olive and desperately hope that I never will be.

@Elizabeth -- I didn't know that the stories were published over a long period of time, but I find that interesting. I think that the stories work better as individual short stories rather than in a novel form.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Back of the title page, where they have to give copyright permissions is:

"A Different Road" was publishedin Tin House in 2007.
"A Little Burst" was published in The New Yorker in 1998.
"Winter Concert" was published in Ms in 1999.
"Basket of Trips" was published in O: The Oprah Magazine in 2000.
"Ship in a Bottle" was published as "Running Away" in Seventeen in 1992.
"Criminal" was published in South Carolina Review in 1994.


message 11: by Nancy (NE) (last edited Feb 01, 2011 07:16PM) (new)

Nancy (NE) | 1090 comments Interesting that they were published that way. I do think they stand alone well, but they also piece together to form a larger picture of Olive, through the eyes and lives of all those people. It completes something that no one story could convey. And you don't have to like everything about her to appreciate her and how she got to be the way she was. She was far from perfect, but none of us are.

I wonder if she was always like that or if she evolved into her personality as she moved through her life. I guess I'm a little bit of an Olive. She was quite opinionated, sort of a no-nosense type of person who wasn't going to put up with something that she didn't sense was genuine. I think that's why she stole the shoe - there was something she correctly sensed about the first wife. I have taken on more of that as I get older. She was also compassionate in a quiet way. Such a multifaceted person.

Jade - your comment is funny. There certainly was alot going on. There's more to the story than meets the eye as they say.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Jade wrote: "But is it just me or did anyone else notice there was a lot of cheating going on in that small town? "

You're young, you might not notice that, unfortunately, this has become quite common.

I don't know whether they are better as stand along stories or not, because I didn't have the opportunity to read them that way. The first such book I read that is a collection of stories written over a period of time, was Alice Munro's The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose. No Olive in it, and you might find you like this collection.


message 13: by Collin (last edited Feb 01, 2011 02:25PM) (new)

Collin | 197 comments Trying hard to finsh Olive on my snow day here in Central Texas (I can hardly believe it), and the more I read, the more I adore her.


Nancy (NE) | 1090 comments She is quite the character isn't she Collin!?


Maureen (Meg9000) | 45 comments I just finished Chapter 1 - Pharmacy. Wow, that takes me back to my young adulthood. It was set in the same time and relatively the same place - the Northeast. I could smell the damp, cold roads, and the crisp, cold air. Knew the kind of cars they were driving, the kind of clothing they wore, and what they looked like. My neighbor owned a pharmacy like that and I worked next door to it at the A&P, and later at the shoe store on the other side. I used to go to the pharmacy during breaks and browse all the things on the shelves and dream of buying them. What a nice job she did on that chapter!


Linda | 443 comments I'm not an Olive, but I knew one. I loved her very much. She was my next door neighbor, she has passed away but I think of her everyday. Believe it or not, she was a math teacher as well.

Oh, and the pharmacy! I worked in one just like it. Small town, pharmacy, one pharmacist and the counter help, just about extinct these days.


Lisa Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "Back of the title page, where they have to give copyright permissions is:

"A Different Road" was publishedin Tin House in 2007.
"A Little Burst" was published in The New Yorker in 1998.
"Winte..."


I think that if I had read these as individual stories, I might have felt differently about Olive. It was really the total picture that made me feel sorry for her; had she only been better at communicating her life would have been so different.


Nancy (NE) | 1090 comments I had memories of going to Chippewa Falls Wisconsin to visit my grandmother. It still is such a charming little town. We thought we were so grown up when we would walk down the hill into town, carrying our precious change into the five and dime to shop... or the corner grocery when I was a little girl. My grandmother and I walked there several times a week for some little item and always some penny candy picked from the case. The atmosphere of the pharmacy brought back many memories.


Maureen (Meg9000) | 45 comments Finished Chapter 2 - Incoming Tide - what a wonderful job she does putting the reader right inside the picture she is painting. You can see it and feel it. She sets the stage with foreboding. You just feel like you are right there!


Elizabeth (Alaska) I think Incoming tide is where we begin to see that there is something deep that connects her to people. It is this connection that is also the source of frustration that she has such a prickly personality.


Maureen (Meg9000) | 45 comments Interesting observation, Elizabeth. I also thought she seemed rather human in that story - and that maybe she had a bit of a sixth sense about people.


Maureen (Meg9000) | 45 comments Chapter 3 – The Piano Player
Well – this one was a rather sordid tale of a pathetic little life well-hidden behind an ordinary facade. I was thinking as I started it how nice these little vignettes were - a little slice of the life around her, I suppose. I imagine the author lived in a small town and just started writing stories about the lives of the people around her. Well done. I still feel like I’m there. I also grew up in a small town and there were all these quirky people around - I always wondered about their lives as they were so different from mine. Looks like maybe Elizabeth Strout took the small town gossip and fleshed out a story from it. Nicely done, I think.


Julie (julmille) | 388 comments Hello all...so glad about the buzz we have going about this book...I was so unsure of whether or not to read this book...I had heard that it was 13 short stories and I thought, ugh, I won't like it. But I ended up really loving it. I want to know first, what made you decide to read this book? Did you like Olive?


Meg (megvt) | 2820 comments Are you an Olive? :)
Only with a martini..........

I just started, I will try to catch up with you guys. Truman took forever to finish!


Linda | 443 comments I hadn't realized that a collection of short stories written over a period of time. Although Olive was woven into these stories sometimes by a fine thread, I finished the book wanting more. I found all of her characters very interesting, loved the venue and her descriptions of it, but the main thread quite dark. I


Nancy (NE) | 1090 comments Hope you enjoy it as much as I did Meg. I wanted to read this book after feeling that the writing was a style that I really enjoy. I actually liked the fact I was only getting an impressionistic painting of Olive. For me the character was developed through these little "ah-ha" moments. With each vignette I discovered another dimension of her personality. Every little piece unearthed was a new facet, so my opinions of her evolved through the book.

In another discussion, I felt as if this was a book and she was a character that it took some age to fully appreciate. Anyone have feelings on that??


Linda | 443 comments I'm with you Nancy. I hope one day that along with some age, certain people will come to appreciate my quirks! :-0


Julie (julmille) | 388 comments Did you have a favorite of the 13 short stories? Why? Or a least favorite?


message 29: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2510 comments Mod
Honestly, I read this book becaue of Elizabeth (Alaska). I had seen so many of her comments about this book when I saw it at my library a few months ago I grabbed it and read it.
I love reading someones favorite book I feel like I get a little insight into them as well as a good book.

My least fav was the story of her and her son when she went to stay with them. I was so frustrated with their inability to communicate effectively. It made me angry because I think they both needed each other and they couldn't get past their pride or silliness.


Elizabeth (Alaska) I read this book because I had already read her Abide with Me. She is a great author who I feel privileged to have accidentally tripped over. I have since read Amy and Isabelle. If you liked Olive (not Olive, necessarily, but the book), you may like the other two. Both are complete novels and not a short story collection.

I still have a few stories to go in my reread, so not ready to state a favorite yet, but I'm pretty sure the last story will be toward the top. It made me cry.


Nancy (NE) | 1090 comments There was something so beautiful in so many of the stories. One that stood out to me was the young girl with anorexia/bulemia. There was something about Olive walking into that kitchen and just touching her, that glimpse of an unspoken human connection. And I'll have to agree with Tera. The visit with her son was the most frustrating for all the reasons she stated!


Viola | 979 comments @Tera --
I too read Olive Kitteridge because of Elizabeth (Alaska)! And I totally agree with what you said about reading someone else's favorite book.

Unfortuantely, in this case, I was disappointed.

I like to read books when I know nothing about the book. So I didn't know it was a collection of short stories. I read it as if it were a novel. Anyways, I hated the format. I came away thinking, what was the point of that?


Elizabeth (Alaska) Chrstopher was frustrating. I had forgotten that Olive keeps saying "I did love him" or "I do love him" as if she's trying to convince herself of the truth of it. I think she knows she was an inept parent but can't bring herself to admit it.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Viola, the format is one of the most often stated reasons for not liking this book. The other, of course, is Olive herself. You might try this one again when you get older, because, as Nancy stated above, I think it is a book for whom those of us getting a little long in the tooth can most relate.

One of the reasons I was suprised to see that these were stories published over a long time is because they seem to hang so well together. It suprised me that Strout would have Olive hanging around her thoughts for so many years, that she would keep bring her forward to tell about. And, of course, Olive grows as a person as she ages, just like we all do.

My husband is several years younger than I. I can only hope I have this planned so that her awful experience with the nursing home, followed by her horrible loneliness, doesn't land in my life.


Rebecca  | 958 comments I just my reading but maybe I am the only one not taking Olive seriously. she is kind of crass and sarcastic and sometimes she does make me giggle. I Am guessing there is reason for the way she acts.


Irene | 1654 comments I am a bit of Olive: cynical, reluctant to let people get to close, unwilling to suffer fools gladly and often too out spoken. I lack Olive's sensitivity and ability to connect with those truly broken.

I loved the format, refreshing. I love the short story because it forces the writer to get to the point. This collection of stories gave me glimpses of Olive. I felt as if I was getting to know her the way that I get to know most of the people in my community, little by little, through the impressions they leave on a space or situation, by the subtle impact of the community on them and the just as subtle impact they have on the community.

I have read this book twice and my reactions to the stories change. I think I least enjoyed the story in N.Y. with her son and the hostage story in the hospital. Maybe it was the violence which I dislike; both were violent in their own way. But each of the other stories I wanted to linger in but not these. I loved just about every other story, watching her talk to the young man contemplating suicide with her ability to convey deep empathy, the extraordinary compassion that welled up with the girl starving herself, her fidelity with her husband unable to give the slightest response after is stroke, all of it. I grew to love Angie on my second read, a woman who I tried to dismiss the first time through. I loved the swiss cheese image that closed the novel. I really appreciated the fact that we first meet the abrasive Olive through the loving eyes of her husband who sees her limitations but chooses to love anyway.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Brenda, I think it won the Pulitzer because it is extraordinary. As Irene stated above, Olive's character is revealed bit by bit, and leaves the reader having to work at seeing all of her.


Nancy (NE) | 1090 comments Beautifully said Irene!


Collin | 197 comments I liked all of the stories and loved several. I developed an appreciation for Olive and wish, like many, to know more about her. She made me giggle on several occasions, but I really loved the conversations between she and Marlene in "Basket of Trips." When the two of them were talking alone while Kerry was passed out, both of them said things that were just funny to me (you know, in a sad kind of way).
I did read this book to fast...for me anyway. I will definately read this again!


Elizabeth (Alaska) use a pillow, a knife makes too much blood to clean up


Collin | 197 comments and..."No need to be...we all want to kill someone at some point." and then I just keep giggling at: Olive's ready to say, if Marlene wants to hear, the different people she might like to kill.


Julie (julmille) | 388 comments Here goes another topic of discussion...What are some of the themes of love and marriage that reappear in some of the stories?


message 43: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Feb 03, 2011 07:20AM) (new)

Elizabeth (Alaska) 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, as if it were a tart on a platter with others that got passed around again. No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn't choose 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 known what one should know: that day after day was unconsciously squandered.


message 44: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Feb 03, 2011 07:23AM) (new)

Elizabeth (Alaska) It seems to me that the above paragraph, third from the last in the book, summarizes Strout's theme throughout the book. There are various ways the "squandering" is described and illustrated, but I think Strout was trying to help us learn "that day after day is unconsciously squandered."


Julie (julmille) | 388 comments How would you say Olive changed as a person throughout the course of the book?


Irene | 1654 comments I think there was themes of loving through our brokenness. Henry had been deeply wounded by his mother who suffered with mental health illness. I think it was exactly through the cracks that such a life caused in him that he could allow Olive in and through which he could find his soft spot for her. Olive also had been broken by her father's depression and suicide. It enabled her to uniquely love the young man sitting in the car, be that jagged rock on which Henry could find firm footing and occassionally get impailed and anticipate the needs of her own son's depression. I wanted to cry over the story of the couple at the Christmas concert. Their love was palpable, and because of that they hurt so badly. Setting that one at Christmas served as a contrast between the superficial good feelings of twinkling lights and plastic decorations with the Incarnate Love which is bound up with surrender and death. Angie's story hit me similarly. Love somehow breaks us. And, in turn we break those we love. But, until we are broken, deep, true love can't easily get in or out.


Irene | 1654 comments Olive became increasingly self-aware. She is forced to face her flaws; she get glimpses into the way that others see her and begins to care about that. She resists it, does not like what she is forced to look at, but toward the end, I think she begins a move toward some level of self-acceptance, despite her imperfections.


Irene | 1654 comments Her gradual, at times reluctant, growing awareness of herself, her limitations and the way she is perceived by others, was a quality to which I could relate. I did not see Olive's basic personality changing. I did see some of her rougher edges being worn down a bit so that she was less abrasive. I doubt that our basic personality changes with age. (Well, barring brain trauma) But, I do think that there is a bit of easing, smoothing, relaxing that can go on. As we are honest with ourselves, some of our insecurities, defenses, less authentic behaviors can give way to something else. For Olive, she needed to soften, and I think age did that for her. She was able to grieve her own brokenness. For others, it may be a willingness to care less about what others think, becoming less of a person who needs to please or get approval from others. For others, some of the striving can give way to deeper satisfaction in life.


Maureen (Meg9000) | 45 comments Very perceptive insights, Irene, and beautifully stated.


Meg (megvt) | 2820 comments I thought the ending was sad. It took her all her life to realize how important it is to accept faults in others and not having to always be right.


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Books mentioned in this topic

The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (other topics)
Amy and Isabelle (other topics)
Abide with Me (other topics)
Olive Kitteridge (other topics)