The book is a collection of short stories of ordinary folks from a small town. I didn't feel like I was reading short stories that end and leave me wanting more. After hearing the second story, I was confident that I would be satisfied with another story that would some how connect me to the character, Olive Kitteridge. I was engrossed in the stories as if I was reading a novel. I was reminded of Russo's, Empire Falls. (Pulitzer Prize 2002). Often the best stories seem to come from a day in the life of ordinary people with every day family dynamics and issues.
The book takes place in the small town of Portland, Maine and the stories revolve around a central character Olive Kitteridge. At times she is a grumpy, outspoken, and a rude woman. As the stories unfold, more is revealed of Olive. Who is Olive Kitteridge? Do we love her or hate her? I appreciated her for being ordinary and sensible despite her flawed demeanor. For me Olive is " the town staple" like the local store or any other structure that individualizes a town.
Henry Kitteridge, Olive's husband, is a wonderful man and perhaps it may seem that he is too nice and too kind for Olive. Does he deserve the wrath of Olive? Yet we can sense at times that Olive has a deep love for Henry, her son and others. Why oh why doesn't this come through in her dealings with them at all times. The stories interconnect in a way to reveal Olive's insecurities and the depth of her character in relation to the perils of the community. Outwardly it seems that she doesn't have deep compassion to love those in her life, and yet the stories reveal more to us.
Who of us doesn't know an "Olive." And do we see or feel an "Olive" in our own self? So often it seems that Olive could use a word or two to "mend" a situation. What gets in the way of a kinder word being spoken to heal or mend the situation?
The writing is utterly fantastic. I do regret that I only listened to the audio book of Olive Kitteridge and I don't have any quotes to share as I was driving a lot when I listened. However, I want to say that this audio book was outstandingly well read. This is also book that I want to put into my own library.
How did my group like the book?
A member in Mississippi said, "I liked the book a lot and of course marked several Olive-isms." She had a lot more to contribute than just that and she enjoyed reading the book and savoring it.
Another member had this review to share:
" I gave Olive Kitteridge two stars because I liked the format of the book (a collection of short stories) and thought that some of the stories had profoundly thought provoking points. Unfortunately, the book didn't grab me. It could be because every short story seemed to start off the same... it took a several pages to figure out what was going on because of the exhaustive use of "they," "he," "she," or "it" before anything was clear. Overall, it wasn't a terrible book but not one I may recommend either."
-Chuluota Book Junkie
I give the book high praise for my favorite read of 2009. Have you read it? What do you think? I'd love to know.