Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Two books by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge ~ by Elizabeth Strout, 2008, fiction (Maine), 280 pages

Bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character:  Olive Kitteridge.

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.  Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition — its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

Olive, Again ~ by Elizabeth Strout, 2019, literary fiction (Maine), 306 pages

Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine.  Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire us.

From The Wall Street Journal:  "Olive is a brilliant creation not only because of her eternal cantankerousness, but because she's as brutally candid with herself about her shortcomings as she is with others.  Her honesty makes people strangely willing to confide in her, and the raw power of Ms. Strout's writing comes from these unvarnished exchanges, in which characters reveal themselves in all of their sadness and badness and confusion. ... The great, terrible mess of living is spilled out across the pages of this moving book.  Ms. Strout may not have any answers for it, but she isn't afraid of it either."

1 comment:

Helen's Book Blog said...

I read the first Olive book and thought it was good, but not great. I had real trouble since I didn't like Olive. I didn't read the second one.