Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout



Who? Olive Kitteridge, retired school teacher, and various members of her family and citizens of her town.

What? A Pulitzer Prize winning novel constructed of 13 stories that depict human struggle, loneliness, loss, grief, broken relationships, disappointment, heartache and rejection, but also hope, connection, support and forgiveness.

Where? Crosby, a small coastal town in Maine.

When? The early seventies through the early-21st c.

Why? I’m not sure why Elizabeth Strout wrote this wonderful novel, but I can tell you why I liked it. Olive is a fascinating character. She is crusty, self-centered,  opinionated, and hard-headed but she can be surprisingly sympathetic and is willing to attempt change to better connect with others. Her flaws are touchingly familiar and her challenges are painfully universal. A lot of the stories portray older people facing the loss of their spouses or the loss of love for their spouses and these stories are hard to read. I think loneliness in old age is a tough subject to face head-on and it doesn’t make for a fluffy read. One of my co-workers saw me reading this at lunch and commented that she thought it was one of the most depressing books she’s ever read. I concede that it is gloomy in places and even heartbreaking. I cried at several points in the book. However, I think it is a beautiful character study and has a lot of lessons  to convey about being more forgiving and understanding of the people in our particular spheres of influence. Sometimes I don’t like novels that are so brutally honest, but this one is exceptional. It is harrowing to read, but not without its moments of joy and hope. I think it is very worthy of the Pulitzer Prize.

*Olive loves donut holes from Dunkin’ Donuts.*