Well, I'm 3 months late with this review (Olive was April's book) and I'm 3 books behind (May, June, and July = zero books) but I'm not giving up. So here I am! Honestly, I'm not sure I remember that much about this book, but I'm going to press on...
This is a book of short stories where the character Olive Kitteridge plays a part in every one -- as both a satellite character and the central figure. One thing that threw me off while reading was that Olive is the protagonist in most of the stories, but not all of them. I was constantly looking for some sort of pattern -- is Olive the main character in the first and last stories? No. In just the ones about the town she lives in? No. In alternating stories? No. I don't think I ever discerned a pattern. Not sure what that means (either the part about me looking for a pattern or that there was no pattern), but it's something that struck me (and kind of distracted me) while reading the book.
My general lasting impressing of the book: I liked it. And, more importantly: I liked it, but did not particularly like Olive. At least, not at first. And, even in the end, I'm not sure that I "liked" her. We have talked at length about the possibility of liking a book even when we did not like the main character... I think I have pretty much said, "No. Can't do it." but this book has proven me wrong.
If there was a single story that made me begin to "like" Olive, it was her empathy while attempting to save an anorexic girl -- making a connection between a secret-doughnut-eating fat woman and a starving-herself-to-death skinny one was truly brilliant. Whatever is broken inside of these two women is, essentially, the same thing.
As I sit here thinking more about this book, I realize how powerful the writing is -- the past 3 months have been totally and completely hectic in my life, and yet I remember the suicide attempt story, the infidelity story, the story about Henry's assistent, the lounge singer's story... that's some good writing, to stick in my post-cross-country move brain.
I was particularly interested in the continued story of Olive and her son, but now cannot remember how it turns out... did we ever find out what crime (or perceived crime) Olive had actually committed against him? Or was it just her perpetually overbearing motherhood that ruined him and their relationship (in his mind, at least)? I remember a feeling of "We're going to find out something horrible that happened to him as a child..." but then remember that feeling being unanswered. (Did something shocking get revealed and I cannot remember it now?)
Since I cannot remember any specific dramatic event, I think the issue was just... general mom-was-a-shit issues, which leads me to the conclusion of... we're all damaged in some ways by our parents, right? The key is how we deal with it as adults. This guy doesn't seem to be dealing with it very well. Was Olive's over-protectiveness worse than any other item on the laundry list of mistakes parents make? I don't know -- it didn't really seem to me like it was. Maybe someone with a "perfect" upbringing would think it was? Perhaps that was the point -- most of us, at some point, think our parents are "the worst." And some parents really are -- but Olive, despite her flaws (heck, I barely liked her), didn't seem to be "the worst." But, again, perhaps I am misremembering and something shocking took place -- set me straight, wouldja?
What furthered me most in "liking" Olive was definitely her care and attention to Henry after his stroke. It also broke my heart and scared the living shit out of me. God, I hope this never happens to me. I guess that's an awful thing to say after, "Yeah -- we all have to deal with our shitty upbringings." I guess the message there is "Yeah -- we all have to deal with life's tragedies," right? (But if I could choose, I'd choose less tragedies. That's all I'm saying.)
Okay. I will now wrap up this wildly-careening review/re-hash of a book I read in the midst of one of the most hectic times of my adult life. Sorry, Olive Kitteridge. You may not have gotten the attention you deserve. But hey -- I did like you!
I am going to try my best to catch up over the next month or so ... I've been reading plenty of junk lately, so I just need to sub out TBR for junk (this helps: I unpacked my books today!)