So after some initial excitement, I must say, my affection for the library is waning. The problem is that I don’t normally read a book within three weeks, so when I get a novel from the library, I feel a lot of pressure to read, read, read all the time, as fast as I can. It feels like homework, which really takes away from my enjoyment of the book. Most of the books I’ve requested have a waiting list, so renewing them is not an option — that means that if I don’t finish it within the three weeks, I’ll have to wait another few months to get it again if I want to find out how the book ends. Eeep.
However, I’m very happy that I did manage to (barely) make it through the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout:
In short, I loved this book. It’s a series of short stories, all connected by the presence of Olive Kitteridge, an older lady in a small coastal town. Some of the stories feature Olive as a main character; in others, she just passes through or is only mentioned. Still, her presence is always felt.
The stories mostly centre on couples and older people as they reflect back on their lives. Old love affairs rear their ugly heads; old passions die out and fade away. Parents struggle to relate to their grown children and to build a relationship with their grandchildren; friends wonder if they ever really knew each other. It’s exactly the kind of subject matter that appeals to me — everyday people trying to make sense of their lives.
I think I enjoyed every single story in this book, which is very rare for me. In fact, I almost never read short story collections because I much prefer novels. This book reads like a novel, though — all the characters live in the same town and pass through each others lives, and it all fits together like a puzzle. It just feels like the focus of the book shifts gently from one household to another, fitting into the same tone and style.
And of course, there is Olive herself to tie it all together. I adore Olive. She’s tough and unemotional (to a fault) and strong. She’s also stubborn, angry, and sometimes mean. Above all, she’s real. I couldn’t wait to find out more about her and although I liked stopping in with the other families in town, I got unreasonably excited when I figured out that the next story was centred on Olive. If they ever make a movie from this book, I insist they cast Tyne Daly in the role.
Elizabeth Strout is such a fantastic writer that I almost consider this book to be a guide to my own future. I felt such a kinship with these people, and such insight too into life with grown children.
I recommend it highly to everyone. In fact, I wish I owned a copy so I could lend it out; I’m leaving it on my Amazon wish list even though I’ve already read it. At the very least, all the readers on my Christmas list are getting a copy!