Saturday, August 14, 2010

Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout

What a difference a book makes. I haven't been terribly fond of her previous books, but absolutely loved this one. Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitizer in 2008, and was a book I thought to get to eventually (I still haven't forgotten the previous minister tale, although not for the right reasons Abide with me). However, Olive is an incredibly complex book - I can't describe it as a Maine or NE book, it is more deeply perceptive into the human condition/narrative. There are 14 different people/stories in this book, with Olive involved in all of them. She is fiercely proud of her heritage (10th generation American, from Scotland as indentured servants) but I think of this as more a generational book (specific voice / era or small town (anywhere)) than Yankee. Perhaps I don't feel Yankees are so intensely lonely, alone, full of loss all lives full of quiet grief. I read it curiously, not heart wrenching - as layers of character were revealed. I admired Olive for her relentless views, although that was some time coming (your introduction to her charming husband colours your initial impression, as is her point). Everyone has a different perception of people, relationships are all complex, but need to change with time, place and with the relationship as well. She was a fierce math teacher, but remembered by all fairly. (Ok, not by her son!). Her one concern at 77 was her daily exercise - the 6 mile walk, to exclude people, but that it was exercise that would make her live longer - only if she could die quickly, and not in a home lingering, like Henry). Her quest to learn, to grow, to understand. Not just within her community, but into the bigger picture. (I absolutely adore her comments/opinions of Bush in the White House). "Bad things happen. Where have you been?" - do not make excuses.

a few haunts : Rebecca "This can't be my life."

When I read a review that said it was a "penetrating portrait of ordinary coastal Mainers, ...with sweeping descriptions of lush Maine landscape - I can't believe we read the same book. It is the people in here that are absolutely fascinating, their grappling with their lives and unexpectedly intersecting lives and those impacts that will stay with you for weeks.

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