Olive Kitteridge
By Elizabeth Strout

This fictional biography is comprised of a series of loosely connected stories about people who live in a remote seaside area of Maine. The physical description of the town reminds me of Bar Harbor, but the people seem reminiscent of the parents of the killed and injured children of “The Sweet Hereafter.”

The connection that all the people and their stories have is to Olive Kitteridge, an acerbic woman who is tolerated by all, liked by some, and loved by none except her husband, Henry. “He loves her,” said Jane . . . “That’s how he can stand her.”

The stories are amusing in one way or another. Some are uplifting, others are downers, but all find some connection back to Olive who, for all the angst about her, appears to be something of a rock that anchors the community.

This last is, I suppose, the point of the book. No matter what your surface feelings are about people, there is often an underlying strength to them that, in Olive’s case, holds a community together.

The construction of the book at times seems random, but is in fact a well-disciplined chronology of events told through the lives of many (I can’t say how many) people in 13 short stories, many of which could easily be published as standalone pieces. They are well written in a style that draws a bit on New England dialect, but depends mostly on the great training and experience that Ms. Stout has had as a writer.

I’ve been urged to find the NPR series  . . . I have yet to do so, but Covid-19 lockdown goes on, so one day . . .

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