Olive Kitteridge

Strout, Elizabeth. Olive Kitteridge. New York: Random House, 2008.

Reason read: In Rockland, Maine, there is a festival dedicated to lobsters. Read Olive Kitteridge in honor of the critters.

Comprised of thirteen short stories with varying narratives, Strout cleverly tells the story of Olive Kitteridge. Olive is lurking in most of each connecting tale. Sometimes characters gossip about her, like in the story called “Winter Concert.” In the first story “Pharmacy” Olive’s husband, Henry Kitteridge, doesn’t seem to have a happy life since he retired from his old fashioned pharmacy. Olive is presented as a woman who doesn’t suffer fools easily. She shows the world an angry and proud face most of the time. I think they call it “Yankee stoicism.” Other stories:

  • “Incoming Tide” – Olive is present when a woman tries to commit suicide.
  • “The Piano Player” – Angela O’Meara plays the piano for ungrateful guests.
  • “A Little Burst” – Olive’s only son is getting married to a woman she doesn’t like.
  • “Starving” – Harmon is starving in his marriage while he befriends a girl with anorexia.
  • “A Different Road” – a couple are victims of a crime by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Winter Concert” – A couple attends a concert where the wife learns of her husband’s secret rendezvous.
  • “Tulips” – bitterness.
  • “A Basket of Trips” – a death cuts a marriage short.
  • “Ship in a Bottle” – a girl is stood up on her wedding day.
  • “Security” – Olive tries to visit her son in New York; a story about expectations.
  • “Criminal” – the story of a neurotic kleptomaniac.
  • “River” – My favorite story of the the bunch. Olive is a widow and learning to be polite.

Author fact: Strout also wrote Amy & Isabelle and Abide with Me. Both are on my Challenge list. I read Amy & Isabelle in 2007 and I read Abide with Me in 2013.

Book trivia: Olive Kitteridge won a Pulitzer in 2008.

Playlist: “Good Night, Irene,” “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “The First Noel,” “We Shall Overcome, “”Fly Me to the Moon,” “My Way,” “Feelings,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” Beethoven, “Fools Rush In,” “Whenever I Feel Afraid,” Phish, Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” and Debussy.

Nancy said: Pearl said Olive Kitteridge would be an excellent choice for a book club.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the curious chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).


Abide With Me

Strout, Elizabeth. Abide With Me. Read by Gerrianne Raphael. New York: Random House Audio, 2006.

This was a reread for me. Before I started the challenge I picked up Abide With Me as a recommendation from LibraryThing. I liked Amy & Isabelle so why not give Strout’s next novel a try? I didn’t get too far and the reason I gave for giving up was I couldn’t take the run on sentences. Listening to the audio is definitely better. My mind is not tangled up in sentences that seem to go on forever.

In the late 1950s, in the gossipy and close-knit community of West Annett, Maine lives Tyler Caskey, a minister who is floundering on the pulpit after losing his wife to cancer. With two small children to care for, Caskey relies on his mother for help. But, Strout writes with wide strokes. Her story take in details of many people and places no matter how minute their importance is to the storyline. You meet many different parishioners.  Luckily, after a while they sort themselves out and Strout concentrates on a select few. That being said, character development didn’t really happen for me. I found myself not really caring about any them. The plot plods along slow enough to make me wonder about its direction. Peppered throughout are quiet social commentaries on Freud and sex, Khrushchev and the Cold War.

One pet peeve. If you are going to read a story that takes place in Maine, please take the time to learn the pronunciations. Bangor is not Banger. It’s Bang-gore. Augusta is not Ooh-gust-a it’s Ah-gust-ah. Enough said.

Reason read: Maine celebrates a lobster festival the first week of August.

Author fact: Strout won a Pulitzer for Olive Kitteridge, a collection of short stories. This is also on my list.

Reader fact: Gerrianne Raphael has also performed opera.

Book trivia: Abide with Me was met with mixed reviews when first published. For the most part, people loved it. I read one review where the reviewer was put off by the bitter and catty community. I wasn’t a fan of the characters either.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 132).