Monday, July 13, 2009

Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge is this year's Pulitzer Prize winner - I find Pulitzer winners to be a great bet, with the exception of The Road, which I have no intention of reading.

Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge is quite a fine book that reminded me of Empire Falls, even All Creatures Great and Small (but not in a cheesy way). It's the stories of many people in a small, new England town, and Olive is a woman who kept surprising me. I felt that I never knew who she really was, which was kind of wonderful, because she ages quite a bit throughout the book. I love it when authors explore the idea, even as they create a character, that identity and personality are fluid. Olive is a heart-breaking woman - usually never referred to by others or herself without referencing her size or her lack of style. Like the mother in Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, she's an imperfect character - she's not exactly likeable, but you hope the best for her.

Stout's writing style is not extravagant, but her prose is simple and beautiful. Several times I literally burst into tears just... instantly.

Some favorite passages:
She had lived through a lot of things with this country, but she had never lived through the mess they were in now. Here was the man who looked retarded, Olive thought, remembering the remark that was made by the woman in Moody's store. You could see it in his stupid little eyes. And the country had voted him in! A born-again Christina with a cocaine addiction. So they deserved to go to hell, and would.

...He would not let her go. Even though, staring into her open eyes in the swirling salt-filled water, with sun flashing through each wave, he thought he would like tis moment to be forever: the dark-haired woman on shore calling for their safety, the girl who had once jumped rope like a queen, now holding him with a fierceness that matched the power of the ocean - oh, insane, ludicrous, unknowable world! Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on.

1 comment:

KHM said...

I've picked this for my next read. You and I are funny on some of these things: I love Richard Russo but I found Empire Falls simply unreadable. I do love your reviews, and always come here when in need of a solid recommendation!