Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
(I received this book as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's program. The book that I received has a different cover, which I like better.)
Let me preface this by saying that I don't read very many short story collections. So, I didn't really know what to expect from this book. However, I knew from the very first story that I was going to enjoy this book. I especially like the way that the author loosely ties all of the stories together using the title character, Olive Kitteridge. This allows the reader the opportunity to see how differently people perceive themselves and others. The stories also progress over time. In the first story, Olive is a working mother, and in the last several stories, she is in her 70s and has lost her husband.
Though Olive is featured in each of the stories, she is featured more prominently in some, and these turn out to be my favorite stories. It would be difficult for me to pick a favorite story, but I think "Security" would have to be one of my favorites. In this story, Olive goes to visit her only son and his pregnant wife in New York. Olive feels very out of place and is devastated to learn that Christopher has issues with her and the way he was raised. The visit ends with Olive and Christopher having an argument and Olive leaving earlier than planned.
It's true that on the surface Olive seems to be an unpleasant person who speaks her mind without regard for the feelings of others. However, I think that the author does a good job of showing the complexities of this character. I feel like much of her brusqueness comes from insecurities. But for all of her rudeness and harshness, she does show kindness in unexpected ways.
Overall, this is a really great book of stories that does indeed read like a novel. I would highly recommend it. Thanks LT for this early reviewers program!