I finished Olive Kitteridge yesterday afternoon and it remained as well crafted as I suspected from start to finish. Elizabeth Strout’s novel is actually more like 12 short stories each written to include the main character, a retired school teacher in small town Maine named Olive Kitteridge. In some chapters Olive figures rather tangentially as a neighbor or teacher, in others we hear her voice or that of her husband, Henry. The reader learns about Olive by seeing the world as she sees it– her observations, her critiques, her painful memories– and then by seeing her interactions with others. It’s a fascinating technique and one that suits such a nuanced character. Olive isn’t wholly sympathetic but she’s also not despicable. She’s as flawed as we all are and Strout reveals just enough in each story to keep you reading and wondering. How did Olive get to be Olive? What binds her to her husband, Henry? Why is her relationship with her son, Christopher so broken?
Strout leaves enough to the imagination that there would be endless ways one could go for a book club conversation. I can’t wait to choose this one as my own pick for my own book club.