Written by: Elizabeth Strout
Simon & Schuster UK
Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera
Olive Kitteridge is a heavy yet deeply touching portrait of a life and the lives surrounding it in the small town of Crosby, Maine.
Olive, or Mrs Kitteridge, is a matter-of-fact woman. She taught maths in the local school, took her husband for granted in life yet was deeply devoted in illness, and her son seems to grow more emotionally distant by the day. Though perhaps not the most personable character, Olive is deeply human. Always sure of herself throughout life, she has never been one for sentimentality, yet in her old age she finds herself lonely and afraid, reflecting on life, love, and loss.
The residents of Crosby, all inextricably connected in their triumphs and tragedies, trudge through life and more often than not, move forward together. Despite the ups and downs, the whispers and the grudges, the deaths and the disappointments, the people of Crosby carry on, for better or for worse, cherishing the good and the moments in which the community bands together.
A highly sensitive and perceptive author, Elizabeth Strout writes people from their essence, from the most distilled part of themselves. Deeply psychological, each character is fully complex, often expressing troubling moral dilemmas and thoughts we may not even admit to having ourselves. The balance between what one thinks and what one does is executed seamlessly. Olive Kitteridge seems almost more a study than a story, each character’s portrait painted in all its colours, each mind whittled down to its deepest darkest thoughts and fears, each soul so innately human.
Strout’s Olive Kitteridge is not for the faint of heart. Fatalistic and at times unnecessarily depressing, very little good seems to happen, only stories of woe and misfortune. Yet life is both ups and downs. A series of events that go from bad to worse, none of the characters actually seem happy; rather slogging through a life with no light at the end of any tunnel. Olive Kitteridge is pragmatic, candid, and unapologetically human.