Olive Kitteridge is not an easy woman to love, and she is aware of this fact, as she goes so far to call herself “a beast of a woman.” Apparently Elizabeth Strout felt she might not be an easy character to love either, especially not without multiple perspectives, and so Strout constructed a novel out of short stories in which Olive is featured in various degrees of prominence.
Olive is a fascinating character with no patience for whining about life, and yet a great deal of empathy. She is difficult to live with, and yet visits her husband every day after his stroke. She is manipulative, and yet loves her son fiercely and never gets over his move out of the small town of Crosby, Maine. She is, simply, quite human, and as the book continued, I found myself capable of more empathy for her and moved past my initial judgement of her based on the first chapter.
The short-story method works incredibly well, and the writing is lovely. This book is not heartbreaking by any means, though pieces of it are. Instead, it is a book about life with all of its parts, and that means some of the stories catch townspeople in their worst moments- and some of these happen to be where Olive is her best self- and some catch her family in their worst, which is often where Olive fails as a person without ever quite understanding why.
It took me two stories to get into the style and the story, and after that, I was hooked and read the book in less than two days. Five stars easily, and proof that one can read a great book without being utterly depressed but still being made to feel. This book deserves the accolades it has gotten, and will definitely appear in packages I send so people will love me to brighten people’s days.