Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Review: Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge
by Elizabeth Strout
Random House
2008
270 pages

People, I am absolutely and unequivocally in love.

With this book.  This one, right here.  Olive Kitteridge. 

This isn't my new favorite book of the month, or the fall, or even all of 2010.  No.  This is one of my favorite books that I have read in all of my 41 years.  This is the book I am going to start recommending to people when they ask me to suggest "a good book."

This is the kind of book I dream of writing. 

A friend just asked me, in response to my raving about this on Facebook, what this book is about.  And I am absolutely at a loss of how to describe this.  It's about the residents of a small town in Maine sounds like a snore-fest.  It's about a retired schoolteacher named Olive Kitteridge and her family and the connections between them and the people in her community ....

Indeed, it is about all of these things, and it's about the big and small things that make up this thing we call life. It's about the people who share our hearts and those who we encounter by chance. Those we take for granted and those who we will always, in our own way, mourn.

I started writing this review when I was only up to page 42 of Olive Kitteridge.  At that point, it was apparent that I was in the company of something very special.  Suffice it to say that this is absolutely flawless.  I honestly cannot think of anything that bothered me about this book or that didn't work for me ... it is just, simply, a masterpiece in every sense of the word.  Author Elizabeth Strout won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge and it is richly deserved.  This book should be taught in every English class.

Everything about this novel-in-stories is pure literary gold.  The characters - each and every single one of these people, residents of coastal Crosby, Maine, all memorable and Olive Kitteridge in their lives for vastly different reasons. The prose - lyrical, mesmerizing, captivating, with descriptions that bring every single one of the pine trees in this community to such vivid life you can hear and see each one in the wind.  The dialogue - so unique to each character, so accurate. The tension, the suspense, the dark humor, the waves of emotion crashing into the reader's heart ...it's all here, in 13 exquisitely written stories that comprise this Pulitzer Prize (and most deservedly so) novel. 

I love short stories, but even if you aren't a fan of the form, that doesn't matter with this book.  While each of these stories can stand alone (and in some cases I believe they have), Olive Kitteridge has a natural rhythm and flow to it. 

As I finished each of the stories, I found myself saying, "OK, that was the best one in this book."  And then I would repeat the same thing after the next, and then the next.  After some I felt like I was forcing myself to actually breathe because the tension was just so heightened.  (I speak of "A Different Road" which I read during last night's shaken-to-the-core thunderstorm that was just as scary as the direction I thought the plot was taking.) 

Truly, I know that I am gushing about this book and that this is probably my most incoherent book review (if you can call it that) ever.  I don't care.  All that matters is that I somehow convey to you that this is a book you must, must, must read.  No, that you must experience because if you appreciate literature and the written word, this is an absolute gift.  It is brilliant, it is mesmerizing, it is stunning in its simplicity and complexity.

It is an exquisite literary treasure.

What Other Bloggers Thought:

A Book A Week
A Guy's Moleskine Notebook
A Life in Books
A Novel Menagerie
A Reader's Journal
Beth Kephart Books
Booking Mama
BookNAround
Caribou's Mom
I'm Booking It
it's all about me
Lakeside Musing
Maggie Reads
Necromancy Never Pays
Never Fading Wood
Page 247
Peeking Between the Pages
Ready When You Are, C.B.
Regular Rumination
She is Too Fond of Books
SmallWorld Reads
Take Me Away

Did I miss your review? Let me know in the comments.


copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

16 comments:

blog said...

I'm glad you finally read this amazing book! I loved each bit of insight I got into Olive in each story.

(and you didn't get >my review :-) )

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Now I did! :) Are you in the Book Blogger Search Engine? (Maybe I just didn't search far enough ...)

Glad you liked this one too and that you pointed me to your review!

Jenny said...

I reviewed it too. =)

Yours was a great review even though you thought it was incoherent, lol! It showed just how much you loved it! I enjoyed it too but definitely on a different level.

ritaliccious said...

I've been reading your blog for quite some time and always enjoy it.

I have had this book sitting on my shelf for the longest time. I'm going right now to pull it off of my shelf and make it my next read. Based on your review as well as others, but mainly after reading yours.

Thanks!!

JoAnn said...

Olive Kitteridge was one of my favorites last year and, at this point, I consider it one of all-time favorites. It was one of the first books reviewed on my blog:
http://lakesidemusing.blogspot.com/2009/01/olive-kitteridge-by-elizabeth-strout.html

I also posted about my book club's reaction to it:
http://lakesidemusing.blogspot.com/2009/03/book-club-meeting-olive-kitteridge_03.html

Elizabeth Strout is one of the authors for this year's Gifford Lecture Series in Syracuse, NY. I'm already looking forward to it!

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

You convinced me after your second paragraph.

As a bonus, the book is only $5.50 on Kindle!!!!!! (or free at the library)

Great review.

Lily said...

I. Love. This. Book. Thanks for mentioning me :). This is a book I may have missed but for the book club at my library reading it. As the librarian I was hearing so much about it, I just had to read it. I agree it was a moving book. I love Olive, and I know someone a lot like her in my small town, someone I am really glad to know.

Trisha said...

I have this one waiting for me on the shelves, so I'm glad to hear you loved it!

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Wow, everyone ... thank you! So glad to see the other reviews I missed (so sorry!) and to know there are others who love this as much as I did ... and to hopefully introduce this to some others.

ritaliccious, thank you so much for the kind words. Very nice to "meet" you!

Amy said...

I'm glad to see that you loved this one so much! I was a fan when I read it earlier this year, but not as much as you are!

irisonbooks said...

That is high praise indeed! I haven't read this book, but I do hope I get to it sometime!

Booksnyc said...

Sold! This book had dropped off my radar of late but you have convinced me I must read it - thanks for the passionate review!

IntrovertedJen said...

You wrote a great review of a great book!

Kate said...

Great review! I loved this book as well, and am so glad to have read it. Here's my review!

http://kateslibrary.blogspot.com/2010/06/olive-kitteridge-elizabeth-strout.html

nomadreader said...

Isn't the feeling of finding a new favorite book ever wonderful? It happened to me this summer with Room by Emma Donoghue, and it was magical. I didn't love Olive Kitteridge as much as you did, although I did love some of the stories.

Becca said...

I thought this was an amazing book. I loved the way Olive was such a strong presence in every story - even if she didn't actually appear in the story! I really like the linked short story concept, and this was probably the finest example of that genre I've ever read.

Your excitement was definitely contagious - I'd like to re-read it now!