By: Elizabeth Strout
This Pulitzer Prize winning book has a different narrative style than most of the novels I typically read. It is broken up into several separate stories, told by different narrators. The only commonality between all the stories is Olive Kitteridge.
So, who is Olive? Well, she is a large woman, who is a wife and a mother, and tends to present a hard demeanor with resolute ideas and principles. I found her to have many characteristics as I learned about her throughout the stories. She was a bit judgmental at times, strong-willed and powerful in some stories, very vulnerable in others, a voice of reassurance and strength in a few, and even somewhat annoying here and there.
Each story is told by a different author and although at first I thought I’d need to remember all these people because they would show up later in the book and everything would tie together – that is not so. These characters do not serve as a plot device, they serve as the lense through which we gain a better view and understanding of Olive. She is the only person that is the constant and returning idea throughout the book.
It took me a while to understand the flow of the book and what I needed to retain and focus on. About one-third of the way through, I finally got it and began to enjoy the book more. It was hard for me to really like or dislike Olive, I think because she was crafted to feel like a real person. And real people have both positives and negatives to them. In one story, I would find myself siding with Olive and then in the next I would wonder what the heck she was doing and become annoyed or angry with her.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I wouldn’t say it’s the most exciting in terms of plot or intricate story lines—it is definitely more about character development and understanding. I came to feel that I understood Olive on so many different levels and watched as she passed through various phases of her life. It was also a nice change of pace, as far as the way the book was set up. I enjoyed each unique slice of life in every chapter once I realized that was how it was set up.