Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The way Elizabeth Strout writes can knock you sideways. The characters feel achingly real, and the little details about their lives are insightful and beautifully phrased. For instance:

"And any unpleasantness that may have occurred back in his home, any uneasiness at the way his wife often left their bed to wander through their home in the night’s dark hours—all this receded like a shoreline as he walked through the safety of his pharmacy."

It "receded like a shoreline." You can almost feel that emotion, touch it, see it. What a simple yet stunning use of simile. I don't know what sorcery this is, but we'll call it a gift. One the author has, one she shares with us.

Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel, and it's easy to see why. The 13 chapters are almost like individual short stories, all either about Olive or the people whose lives intersect with hers in some way. It works incredibly well, and manages to create characters with real depth and believability in a short span of pages.

I highly recommend this brilliantly crafted novel. Once you finish, you can pick up Strout's latest, Olive, Again, which revisits this tough and complex character. I haven't read it yet, but relish the thought of digging in and then watching the author discuss it on Oprah's Book Club, which premieres on Apple TV Plus on Jan. 17.

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