Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
In Novel on April 28, 2009 at 12:40 am
Olive Kitteridge is fleshy. She eats doughnuts everyday. She offends and is offended easily, and yet she is fragile and sympathetic. This novel, composed of 13 connected stories, presents Crosby, Maine: the accumulation of scars that come with small-town life. Despite the size of the town, these characters deal with big issues: physical awkwardness at any age, the pitfalls of fractured family relationships, and the realization of loneliness and fear. This book is subtle but strikes with the force of a bread truck. These characters are utterly human and will make you feel, in some way, that the book was written for you, if not about you. Olive—the retired 7th-grade math teacher, and her husband Henry—the town pharmacist, embody the joys and pains of aging. Strout’s writing forces you to sit right down with Olive as she notices fingernail clippings and soggy Cheerios on the kitchen table at her son’s house. Strout puts you there, again and again. These characters not only seem so real that you’ll be tempted to drive up to Maine and find them yourself, they also force you to confront your place in your town—big or small—and your understanding of community.