Olive Kitteridge: The Unabridged Audiobook by Elizabeth Strout
Book description: At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer’s eyes, it’s in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama — desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love. At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance: a former student who has lost the will to live: Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life — sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.
I listened to this audio book twice all the way through. I wasn’t expecting the novel “in stories”, or mini vignettes but gave it a chance. Olive, retired schoolteacher, interacts with various people who are showcases in the 13 stories that make up OK, in Crosby, Maine. I was feeling a bit confused and disjointed, as were many of my girlfriends who are also reading OK. Considering this book won the Pulizer Prize, I felt it deserved another go round. With 40” of snow on the ground, much baking, shoveling, housework, and dog grooming afforded me the time to give this a second chance and listen as I went about my daily tasks while being confined to the house due to the white out conditions! And you know what? I found myself growing attached to Olive in all her grumpy glory. OK offers insights into the human condition — its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires through stories about her fellow Crosby-ians that each include Olive in some form or another. The best illustration of Olive’s endurance is when her husband is confined by an injury and Olive sticks by his side when an unfortunate turn of events occurs. Classic Olive: “We’ve lost weight, not eating our cheese and crackers every night”, she says to her husband.
She’s overbearing, brash, quite outspoken, but she’s tenderhearted too. As the book progressed, so did Olive’s self-awareness. She began to recognize that although we can’t/won’t like everyone, we need to make an effort to understand them and where they’re coming from. Specifically, when she talks about how she always remembers her past students, thinking of them fondly, as they’re now grown, living their lives as she encounters them about town. I enjoyed Strout showcasing her ability to write vibrantly and beautifully about a mediocre character in a mediocre town. Every character is flawed, and the book is meant to showcase these character flaws, more so in Olive than anyone else. Olive, although in some of the 13 stories, is only barely mentioned/included, she’s essential to the story as a whole. I felt luke-warm about this book despite my deep desire to love it. You can’t force it and you also can’t absolutely love every book you read. It’s like eating cupcakes 3 meals a day. Sounds nice but the actual practice would lend itself to boredom. It’s important to recognize what you like and don’t like in different books to grow as a reader and as a person. So I’m glad I gave OK a second listen. I would have preferred the book be written in narrative form.
2/5 stars for the construction and plot line of the book
5/5 stars to Strout for her writing ability
10 down, 42 to go…
In progress- Kabul Beauty School
Ps- Have a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend! My husband is off this weekend (yay)! We’ll be out and about enjoying our time together. Looking forward to our adventures downtown now that the artic tundra snow is melting, including a romantic dinner at the 5-star restaurant where we had our first date 9.5 years ago, which also happens to have our caricature hanging on their wall!
Love the one your with and please consider donating used books to your library. It’s a tax write off!