I was late to the whole OLIVE KITTERIDGE (2008) thing – the pulitzer prize winning novel, and the HBO limited series. The novel, OLIVE, AGAIN (RandomHouse) picks up where OLIVE KITTERIDGE left off. It’s also had its share of success and can be read as a standalone. I ‘m so happy I picked it up. It’s been named one of the best books of 2019 by just about everyone, but I didn’t know what to expect. I fell in love with Olive, although she’d probably find it nonsense that I found her interesting.
Olive is a curmudgeon in her eighties; exactly the practical, say what’s one her mind never considering the other person, but in a good way woman, I’d expect in Maine. Huh? Exactly. She’s the type of person you’d never think you’d like because she’s a prickly gossip and can easily get under one’s skin. She’s honest to a fault and has no filter, which is difficult for people to experience. But at the same time, she’s really a loving person, who shows it in ways we’re unaccustomed.
Her husband has died and she’s single in the small town of Crosby, Maine. In the novel, we see her relationship with another 80-year widower grow, eventually into marriage “for practical reasons.” Throughout the novel, we watch Olive perform acts of kindness and love without expecting anything back. She goes through life trying to fully understand how she fits in, while helping others discover the same about themselves.
OLIVE, AGAIN is a collection of thirteen interconnected stories. A teenager processes losing her father, Olive helps give birth to a baby in the back of a car, without thinking twice about what she’s doing. A lawyer doesn’t want her inheritance, because of how the money was made and a nurse shares a secret crush. Olive is there with each character, sometimes directly, others not so much. Strout wrote OLIVE, AGAIN because the character was still very much alive in her head and wouldn’t leave her – even after all the hoopla about the Pulizer and the HBO series. It’s the kind of thing, you’d expect from Olive.
I dare say I learned something about myself after spending some time with Olive. Empathy should be freely given. We should try as much as possible to be available to others. The book shares elements of altruism which I found healing. When it comes down to it, its not so easy to go through this thing called life. We all need a little help.
Elizabeth Strout was born in Portland, Maine, and grew up in small towns in Maine and New Hampshire. From a young age she was drawn to writing things down, keeping notebooks that recorded the quotidian details of her days. She was also drawn to books, and spent hours of her youth in the local library lingering among the stacks of fiction. During the summer months of her childhood she played outdoors, either with her brother, or, more often, alone, and this is where she developed her deep and abiding love of the physical world: the seaweed covered rocks along the coast of Maine, and the woods of New Hampshire with its hidden wildflowers.
During her adolescent years, Strout continued writing avidly, having conceived of herself as a writer from early on. She read biographies of writers, and was already studying – on her own – the way American writers, in particular, told their stories. Poetry was something she read and memorized; by the age of sixteen was sending out stories to magazines. Her first story was published when she was twenty-six.
Strout attended Bates College, graduating with a degree in English in 1977. Two years later, she went to Syracuse University College of Law, where she received a law degree along with a Certificate in Gerontology. She worked briefly for Legal Services, before moving to New York City, where she became an adjunct in the English Department of Borough of Manhattan Community College. By this time she was publishing more stories in literary magazines and Redbook and Seventeen. Juggling the needs that came with raising a family and her teaching schedule, she found a few hours each day to work on her writing.
“Aren’t we lucky?” my words.
We have one copy of OLIVE, AGAIN to giveaway. Just tell us your best personal feature. For instance, I’m incredibly loyal. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck.
GIVEAWAY: USA only please.