Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

While laid up with a back injury (from gardening, it seems--as Jay pointed out, no good story to tell in that!), I had the chance to read the Pulitzer Prize winning book, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. The book takes the form of a series of short stories in which Olive is either featured or makes an appearance of some sort. I found myself looking for her, much as you might look for Alfred's appearnce in a Hitchcock movie. The theme of the book seems to be the emotional loneliness of people, particularly people in less than fulfilling marriages. Each story seemed to feature either a death or a relationship outside the marriage (the latter sometimes being consummated but often not). Olive is a generally unlikable character, with her supremely straightforward manner and inability to say that she's sorry. (Perhaps this latter characteristic reminds me of my own mother in some ways, at least in recent years. Not only is this a trait, but one that both Olive and my mother seem proud of at some level.) There were some aspects of the book that struck a chord--the comparison by Olive of her relationship with her son to the relationship of her friends' with their offspring. While superficially commiserating with her friends, she was actually looking for some solace in the fact that their relationship with their daughter was even more strained than her relationship with her son. The humanity of this trait was striking--isn't this something we all do at some level, whether it be in a game of golf , at the workplace or in relation to our dealings with our significant others?

On a different level, I am interested to find that I am enjoying "real" books more than thrillers these days, although they are definitely a bit of work. Maybe it's the lack of substance otherwise in my life at the moment. Maybe I'm trying to get ready to do a book club (although I still don't know if I could force myself to read other people's selections). Only time will tell.

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