Over the course of 13 stories, the story of retired Crosby, Maine school teacher Olive Kitteridge unfolds. Olive is a larger than life character who offers profound insights into others, but often misses similar insights in herself.
As Carlen mentioned in her own review of this work, this was recently featured at one of the library’s book clubs. Per Carlen’s prodding, I have, grudgingly, decided to provide a review of my own. Be forewarned, spoilers ahead if you plan to read the book. I originally tried listening to this book on audio. Some combination of the prose, the reader and the plot resulted in an experience that was painfully and comically bad. Maybe I shouldn’t have listened to it while I was driving, or something else environmental, but this was that rare book that I could not have finished if I’d had to listen to it. My experience with the book was not that much better. I went into this one with high expectations (it won the Pulitzer!) and left completely devastated. The writing and plotting, I felt, were not that strong. Olive is intended to be a difficult character through many of the stories. The combination is that this book is a slog, and Strout never really offers much incentive to keep going. Certainly, late revelations of Olive’s relationship with her son, treated in a wildly inappropriate off-hand manner, made this reader wish he hadn’t. For those that enjoyed Olive, and I know they are out there, I would recommend Elizabeth Berg and Jodi Picoult, as they do this sort of thing much better. For those that have not read Olive Kitteridge, I would recommend skipping it and going to those two authors.
Pros: Won a Pulitzer in 2009.
Cons: There’s little here to recommend, in this reader’s opinion.