Book Review: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge
by Elizabeth Strout

The town is Crosby, Maine. The person around whom the book revolves is Olive Kitteridge. When the story opens Olive is now 72, a retired 7th grade math teacher at the town junior high, married to a nice pharmcist named Henry, has a petulant son named Christopher, and is a bossy, opinionated tour de force.

The novel is uniquely arranged so that the chapters are really individual stories told from the points of view of others in the town. Though Olive is the center point of the novel, she is not telling the story totally by herself. That might have made for an interesting story in itself. She appears in the stories, sometimes with a bigger role than others, but it is her former work associates and students, friends, and acquaintances that let us know what Olive is like.

Each story has a different title. Some of the stories were cryptic and it was difficult to get the gist of what the author was implying. In some cases Ms. Strout didn’t finish the details, and the reader was left to wonder or make up the outcome of the story, and why the characters behaved as they did. Others were straightforward. Many of the characters seemed to be mentally unstable, and it seemed that all of them suffered through life in one way or the other, never experiencing joy. All of them had secrets of one sort or another. Don’t we all?

This novel was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. I am not sure how it earned that prestigious award. I honestly can say that I don’t know what the criteria is for determining who wins, but I wouldn’t have given this novel a Pulitzer. I guess it was a good thing for Ms. Strout that I wasn’t on the committee. I found the book to be a complete downer, and I was really disappointed in it. Repeatedly the topics of suicide, wanting to kill somebody, death, marriages that weren’t happy, and affairs ran through the novel. Yes, it is true that these things do occur in life, but there is also a lot of good to experience and enjoy. I won’t be visiting Crosby, Maine ever.

I finished the book because it was one of the titles on my PopSugar reading challenge list. The challenge was to read a book that was a story within a story. This book fit the bill. I rate this book a 2 out of 5 stars because I liked the format of telling the story through the eyes of others, but the book itself was depressing. Olive Kitteridge had been on my bookshelf for quite a long time before I read it. It will not be going back on my bookshelf as a keeper. I am definitely letting this book go.

Have any of you read a book lately that you would recommend? Please share with us. Happy Reading!

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