Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review: Olive Kitteridge

Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not entirely sure how this book entered my radar, it might have been through a Goodreads friend (though none of them exactly gushed over it) or it might have been because it was a Pulitzer Prize winner--in any case, that I read it is owed to the fact that it was available as an audiobook to download from our library consortium.

It took me a while to get into this short-story-collection-as-a-novel about small-town life in Maine, but when I did, it really captivated me. The title character, Olive Kitteridge, who is at least referred to in each story or makes a cameo, grows from middle age to old age over the course of the book, and although I don't even qualify as middle aged yet, I think it was this aspect of the novel that grabbed me.

For my part, I grew up around adults--my mother was 40 when I was born and my father was 50 (mom was the oldest of six in her family, but dad was the youngest of four). The people I was around most outside of school were all at least middle-aged already, and over the course of my life those people have grown into old age. While none of the characters were ringers for any of my relatives or the other people in my community growing up, I had the distinct impression of getting glimpses here and there into their lives, into the reality of their experience.

At the same time, I got to know the characters in Olive Kitteridge far more intimately that I know most of the people I found myself projecting that characters' lives onto, which is always the great power of fiction, the way it lets us know characters better than we know anyone else. Strout creates such fully-formed characters with interwoven lives--just masterful.

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