This book was a unique book in that there are many different people whose stories are presented in the various chapters, and somehow they all involve Olive. No matter how small the mention, she has effected someone in each of the short stories. This novel is set in a small, coastal town in Maine.
At first I could not figure out just how it was that a book called Olive Kitteridge could have so very little to do with Olive herself. Rarely do I read much analysis before starting a book, so I did not realize ahead of time that there are 13 connected stories within the book, where Olive is the connection. By the end of the book, I was attached to Olive, I wanted to hug her and bring her home-baked treats to share over coffee. I think she is a person who is often misunderstood, but has a heart of gold if you are willing to take the time to look beneath the crusty exterior. I know people like this, do you?
The book reinforces a principle I try to live by: If I think I really do not like someone I make an effort to get to know them better. If I still do not like them, well then, at least I have tried. But let me tell you, I can count on one hand the people I really do not like. Olive teaches us that we can never know the impact we have on someone, how even a simple statement or action have have great effect. She also illustrates how easy it is to build walls up around yourself, walls so thick they cannot be penetrated, and no one can hear your heartbeats from within.
Olive's story is one which deserves a long, leisurely read, and I will read it again. She has so much to teach about life, love, regret, relationships, and the demands we make on others. I wonder how many Olive's are out there, and what we could learn, if we only took the time to notice.
Contained within are stories about a small town and its residents. There is the story of the pharmacist, his clerk, a lounge singer, a podiatrist, a former beauty queen (Miss Potato Queen!) and her family, a kleptomaniac, the mother of a murderer, and more. If you haven't read her story, Olive Kitteridge, written by Elizabeth Strout, is worth the time.