Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge, #2)by Published 15 Oct 2019
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#1 New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout continues the life of her beloved Olive Kitteridge, a character who has captured the imaginations of millions of readers.
Prickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is "a compelling life force" (San Francisco Chronicle). The New Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout "animates the ordinary with an astonishing force," and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic 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 moments of transcendent grace.
Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge, #2) Reviews
Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.
Olive Kitteridge is a difficult woman, formidable and even harsh at times. One who says what she thinks and lets the chips fall where they may. It would be fair to say she is not universally liked, referred to by some as "that old bag". The indignities of aging are front and center. In her 80's now, Olive reflects on the effect of bad memories that follow you through life, profound loneliness, becoming invisible. These interwoven stories carry with them an intimacy, a kind of melancholy beauty tinged with regret.
Olive has not changed much since I last spent time in her company, she is still the same opinionated, domineering, judgmental, interfering and needy woman, but time has passed. Time without her husband, Henry, whose quiet, gentle ways and willingness to see the good in people no longer softened the bitterness in their home since his passing, but it is also only in his death that she seems to begin to recognize the value of his ways in her life.
As in Olive Kitteridge, the characters that populate these intermingled stories don’t lead exciting lives; there isn’t much in Crosby, Maine that has changed. There are few opportunities for significant change, since the town seems to hang onto the ways of doing things the way they’ve always been done, while at the same time growing somewhat in social awareness.
Olive is, of course, still viewed by the town as the disagreeably irritable woman that has been crabby so long that she is referred to by such descriptions as “That pickle person. You know ---- what’s like a pickle?” followed by another saying ”That’s just who she is.”
These stories, which are all linked to Olive in one way or another, through past association as students or teachers she worked with before her retirement, longtime neighbors, they share these inner thoughts of Olive, and sometimes with Olive about life in Crosby, and their life struggles, and their lives since leaving Crosby. Still, this is Olive’s story.
With the passage of more years behind than before her, looking back on her life over the years, I loved the subtle growth in Olive, how she begins to see her failures as well as her growth, declaring herself perhaps “oh, just a tiny – tiny – bit better as a person” and finds herself wishing that Henry was around to see her light shine through.
Pub Date: 15 Oct 2019
Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group – Random House
Elizabeth Strout is such a keen observer of human nature, of our shared condition and she reminds us that life is full of a struggle of some kind for pretty much all of us. In Crosby, Maine you’ll find characters dealing with loneliness, infidelity, alcoholism, sickness, aging, death, regrets, so many regrets. Thankfully, there also is friendship and love and empathy that Olive Kittridge finds within herself to give, because the truths about life are dauntingly sad at times. More than once I stopped between stories to take a breath. This is Crosby, Maine, the small coastal town where our old friend Olive Kittridge lives. In reality it could be anywhere, but of course it wouldn’t be the same unless Olive was there. She’ll tell you exactly what she thinks about you in brutally honest words. She’s not the best wife or mother and honestly she can be pretty brash, but it becomes obvious, though, that in spite of the things she says she cares. I found at times her softer side, her more vulnerable side that aren’t alway evident. I can’t say I liked Olive very much when I started reading Olive Kitteridge, but by the end of that book I realized how many people she had positively impacted as a teacher and as a neighbor. And by the end of this book, I thought how lucky some of these characters were to have Olive in their lives and I felt for Olive as she endures her own challenges.
As in the first book, Strout skillfully weaves separate stories together, with Olive as the thread, but these books for me felt like novels. On the one hand it’s Olive’s story as she reaches her seventies and eighties . She’s older and maybe a little more self aware, but always trying to understand herself. She’s the center of a number of the stories and we come to know more about her as she comes to know more about herself. Some of the stories will give you that gut punch, when Olive comes to painful moments of recognition about her family, her friends and acquaintances and of course herself. In some of the stories she makes a real connection and engages with another character and only makes an appearance in others. Crosby and this book are populated with realistic characters, including Olive who are filled with fears, flaws, frailties that are easily recognizable in ourselves. What can I say about the writing, other than its impeccable. I felt the pull of these characters from the opening lines of pretty much every story. Strout is a fabulous story teller and is on my list of favorite writers. I definitely recommend that Olive Kitteridge be read first in order to fully appreciate the place in her life where Olive has come at the end of this book.
I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House through NetGalley.
Powerful emotional truthfulness - and unforgettable narrative:
Olive was aware of ludicrous behaviors- unspeakable things spoken - but what she did not understand is why she and her son, Christopher should walk into old age with a high and horrible wall between them.
Olive could be blunt, forthright, frank, and candid.
She had strong opinions- and judgements... she hated people who were late.. etc.
I happened to feel as strong as Olive did about a scene at a baby shower:
“A third gift was presented to Marlene’s daughter, and Olive distinctly felt distress. She could not imagine how long it would take this child to unwrap every goddamn gift on the table and put the ribbons so carefully on the goddamn paper plate, and then everyone had to wait—‘wait’ — while every gift was passed around. She thought she had never heard of such foolishness in her life”.
It was easy to understand Olive’s impatience and judgements. Of course she kept her thoughts to herself - but they were so human.
I could just picture that baby shower— the happy smiling guests - but also Olive - at 70ish years old... and her annoyance.
Another scene was puzzling and quite disturbing. I honestly wondered - where in the world was this coming from.
Kayley, was a young girl who took pleasure and money from a man - Mr. Ringrose - whom she cleaned house for - while unbuttoning her blouse. He watched - said thank you - then left her an envelope with cash. This went on for nine weeks.
“There was no one Kayley could tell about what had happened, and this knowledge stayed in her and made her almost constantly unwell”.
I won’t say how the short story ends... but it’s one to scratch your head with wonder.
I wasn’t prepared to feel so sad in some of these short stories- but I did.
Olive barely made it though a visit with her son, Christopher - his wife, Annabelle- and their three kids.
Olive was exhausted. Some quiet cruelty- coldness - was making me feel depleted. I felt so sad witnessing the detachment and bitterness between the bratty children and their grandmother - the imperfections of Olive never being able to do anything right - not even having enough milk or Cheerios...
My heart was breaking for the pain of ‘each’ of the family members... but I especially felt sad for Olive.
To have to feel rejected - judged by your adult children and grandchildren ‘while’ dealing with aging has got to really hurt. It’s a lonely hurt - that author,
Elizabeth Strout soooooo masterly and gracefully understands. Her skill of unraveling the complexities of family life and relationships is written with deep compassion for humanity.
It was so easy to imagine the different characters muddling through - carrying on - enduring the necessary sorrows and joys of their lives well beyond the pages.
This book could easily be a stand alone. Strout binds
together rich narratives - crafted much like she did years ago with her Pulitzer winning novel “Olive Kitteridge”... with great insights, tensions, humor, startling sadness, and compassion.
One of the most emotionally radiant novels about family- and what divides us in our relationships- and definitely about aging....that I’ve read in years.
Olive who has become a baggy old woman - thought about this:
“ The way people can love those they barely know, and how abiding that love can be, even when — as in her own case — it was temporary”.
Kudos- huge kudos and congrats to Elizabeth Strout for writing - ‘again’ a keenly observed lustrously imagined marvelous novel.
Thank you Random House, Netgalley, and the astonishing Elizabeth Strout
For those who loved Olive Kitteridge, as I did, have no fear. Olive is still Olive. And for those who have loved Strout’s previous books, a few characters make an appearance in this one. Olive is still the crusty, prickly, and judgmental woman who says what she thinks. But, she’s mellowing. Perhaps it’s the indignities of aging, or the fact that at her age the losses mount up quickly, but Olive takes a long hard look at herself and doesn’t always like what she sees.
As Olive deals with the harsh realities of getting older, she must also face some harsh truths about herself. There’s a particularly poignant moment when Olive realizes that how others see her is far different than she sees herself. Her eyes are opened that she has reaped what she has sown. Which should give satisfaction, but instead it made me even more empathetic, because the source of Olive's dysfunction is damage done in childhood. She doesn't want to be the way she is. It's complicated, this life of ours.
We see her struggling to be a better person, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much. But as we saw in the first book, Olive has a soft center and can be incredibly understanding and kind as she reaches out to others who are hurting. Then the next moment she’s judgmental and ugly. Perhaps she is more like most of us than we care to admit, a combination of great characteristics with some not-so-nice ones. Olive simply says some things out loud that most of us might only think, as when she declares the art at a local art fair to be “crap”.
I loved that this book caused me to think and reflect. I could only read two stories at a time before stopping to absorb and discuss what I’d just read. If you aren’t in the mood to read about illness, death, and the indignities of aging, then you might want to set this aside for later. Having just lost my mother a few months ago, there were parts that were painfully true to life. As difficult as it was for me, I appreciate that Strout doesn’t sugarcoat the reality.
Strout writes beautifully and with enormous empathy for the human condition, and is one of the few authors who writes about ordinary lives in an extraordinary way. But, as in any collection, some of the stories resonated while others, not so much. I confess that several had me scratching my head for days. I simply couldn’t figure out why they were included or what purpose they served to the overall story. Except perhaps this: people are complicated and we are all struggling with the reality of being flawed humans in a flawed world.
Highly recommended, this would make an excellent choice for book clubs. I’m glad I had Marialyce as my book buddy to discuss this with as we read. This was going to be a solid 4 stars for the reasons I mentioned above, but days later I am still thinking about this book, so for that, it got bumped up to 5 stars.
• I received a digital copy of the book via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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