Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
A series of intertwined short stories, this book is a portrayal of a small east coast town and some of its inhabitants, all struggling the same universal struggles all people have. The book's main character is a cantankerous junior high school math teacher, Olive Kitteridge, whose story winds its way through the book, with some of the stories focusing on her and some only featuring her presence in passing. She's a hard nut to crack; it's hard to like her, and I found myself not liking in her things I see in myself that I don't like, so in that way it became somewhat self-reflective for me. By the end of the book, the reader hopefully comes to have compassion for Olive, even if they never do end up liking her. In a lot of ways, she's the best and the worst in all of us, and what I liked about her character was that she was very real - not beautiful or brilliant or especially charitable, but rather just an average, flawed human being.
The prose is rich and beautiful; I was reminded of Kent Haruf, all of whose books I read and loved.
I read this for my book club and am offering it up for grabs to my book club friends first.