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Olive Kitteridge (Olive Kitteridge, #1)
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November 2018: Literary Fiction > Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout - 5 stars

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Theresa | 7398 comments I managed to finish one more literary fiction book just under the wire! And a Pulitzer Prize winner at that!

Reading this is to experience Olive Kitteridge's lifetime, and the joys and sorrows of many of the denizens of Crosby, Maine, a small ordinary unremarkable coastal village. Told via a collection of short stories, more or less sequential in time,each from a different local POV, I felt like I was in Crosby, watching and listening. It all seems so ordinary, but then, each story starts pulling back the veil, and from the merest glimpse you see that no life is ordinary. The stories are all tied together by Olive Kitteridge herself. In some she is the POV or focal point of the events being described. In others she just passes through. In the end, we know Olive, from within and without.

The writing is sparely beautiful, haunting at times, melancholic but still hopeful. There is a lot of darkness within, but somehow this is not a depressing or sad read. I found myself smiling as often as tears were welling up. We are constantly reminded, very gently, that people and their lives are rarely what they seem on the surface. In the end, these very ordinary lives of Olive and her neighbors are celebrated. That's the gift given us by author Elizabeth Strout.

I absolutely loved this, and look forward to exploring more of Strout's work. It was not a fast read, in part because of other demands on my time, but also, it was a book to savor, one story at a time. Plus it was like a mini-scavenger hunt, wondering where and how Olive would appear in the stories not told from her POV, and just what that encounter would reveal about both Olive and the narrator of that story.


message 2: by KateNZ (new) - added it

KateNZ | 2502 comments Fabulous. I think one of my 2019 challenges is to read everything by one author and Strout is my current top choice (highly acclaimed, not too many books, a new one due in 2019).

It’s great to have your recommendation for this one - I have the same feelings about the Pulitzer that you have about the Booker, so I wouldn’t have taken it as a given that I’d like it :)


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Susie | 4488 comments This was my first Strout and the beginning of my love affair. I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as I did.


message 4: by NancyJ (last edited Nov 30, 2018 08:09PM) (new) - added it

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5564 comments I loved Olive KItteridge. There was also a TV mini series (on HBO maybe) which was very well done.

I didn't like one of her other books though. (I'll have to look up the title later.) I found it overly simplistic, but perhaps the underlying themes just weren't meaningful to me. My book club was split on it, though I think most had liked Olive Kitteredge.

ADDED: Lucy Barton was the book that got mixed reviews in my local bookclub.


Theresa | 7398 comments KateNZ wrote: " ..one - I have the same feelings about the Pulitzer that you have about the Booker, so I wouldn’t have taken it as a given that I’d like it :)
"

Actually I feel that way often about the Pulitzer too but have encountered far more fiction that I have loved that won the Pukitzer than the Booker! 😁


message 6: by Theresa (last edited Nov 30, 2018 03:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Theresa | 7398 comments NancyJ wrote: "I loved Olive KItteridge. There was also a TV mini series (on HBO maybe) which was very well done.

I didn't like one of her other books though. (I'll have to look up the title later.) I found it ..."


Actually was alerted to the HBO series over in the Pop Sugar group at the weekly check in. And it stars one of my favorite actresses, Frances McDormand!


Tracy (tstan) | 1207 comments Oh, I wish I could read this for the first time again!


Joy D | 3864 comments Nice review, Theresa! I've added it to my TBR.


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NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5564 comments Theresa wrote: "NancyJ wrote: "I loved Olive KItteridge. There was also a TV mini series (on HBO maybe) which was very well done. ."

Frances McDormand is incredible. I really liked RIchard Jenkins who played her husband, and Zoe Kazan, who seemed lit from within.


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Amy | 8845 comments I am rare, but I (violently at times) did not care for Olive Kitteridge. I am hit or miss with Strout. Loved three of them, didn't care for the other three. Interesting how folks can feel so differently on the same reads. But I think I am far rarer on this one.


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NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5564 comments Amy wrote: "I am rare, but I (violently at times) did not care for Olive Kitteridge. I am hit or miss with Strout. Loved three of them, didn't care for the other three. Interesting how folks can feel so differ..."

Maybe not Amy. I've heard from others who thought it was choppy, confusing, depressing and they hated Olive. I didn't like the non-linear uneven structure at first. But some of the stories won me over (I loved the husband and his pharmacy assistant), and I reread the ones that didn't make sense before. I happen to find depression and suicide interesting, so that helped. By the end I was enraptured and I felt that I understood Olive.

Strout is an unconventional writer who seems to try out different ways to structure her books, so it makes sense to me that we might each like some but not others.

With Lucy Barton, I had the sense that I was missing something. Maybe there is a profound message that I just didn't get.


Theresa | 7398 comments Amy wrote: "I am rare, but I (violently at times) did not care for Olive Kitteridge. I am hit or miss with Strout. Loved three of them, didn't care for the other three. Interesting how folks can feel so differ..."
There is no discussion if we are all in unity or agreement. Actually, glancing at the GR reviews after posting mine, they are all over the place.

I do not love Olive herself, but I did grow fond of her. I loved how this book unfolded, the way each featured character became more fully rounded after an initial impression. The revelation of the darkness all have inside, how some stories never were fully disclosed, while others were fully revealed as part of someone else's.

I liked that Strout did not shy away from leaving some things unresolved, not tied up in a bow.


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Susie | 4488 comments Amy, you and I have a few that we a diametrically opposed on, don't we? This is one of them.


message 14: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy | 8845 comments Yes Susie, but they only stand out because they felt close to your heart. Actually, we have plenty more that we are totally aligned on in both directions. Its interesting because as mental health clinicians/providers, we are drawn to, and are close to and tough on these books with that theme. But I have to say that my thoughts are closer to some of the one's above when it comes to this book. Its hard when a person doesn't have color or texture - and we have to sit with this a lot and provide growth. But when I lose myself in a novel, often I don't want that. I want the resiliency and the color, and the growth and transformation and the hope. I like a little magic, and I like the ending where some growth has happened. I get frustrated when I have read a book and nothing has been learned or changed by the end in terms of the character's insight. So Lucy Barton was upsetting for me, as was Olive. But I loved at least three others of her books.

Anyway, here in the season of miracles and light, I have the feeling that much of the December reads will have an uplifting feel. But never fear Susie - we are aligned in some other true heart books. Can't wait to see your top ten. I think I know at least the top seven, and have to plow through my list of 25/30 to narrow down the other three. have a great day in Aussie with those beautiful boys. Blessings, Amy


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Joanne (joabroda1) | 7860 comments I am looking for a short story format (which I never read) for another challenge-I will have to check this one out


Theresa | 7398 comments Joanne wrote: "I am looking for a short story format (which I never read) for another challenge-I will have to check this one out"

Also consider Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White which I read earlier this year for Pop Sugar (and before I found PBT). It is also a fast more upbeat and lighter read. My review: "Charming. Reading it is like rocking on a porch during the summer in the deep south, fanning yourself, drinking sweet tea, gossiping about the quirky and eccentric neighbors, telling stories. A delight. An escape. An antidote."


Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5999 comments It was a 4-star read for me. So difficult to write a book people love, when the central character is basically unlikable.


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