Olive Kitteridge may be the most honored book of 2008. People, USA Today, The Washington Post Book World and even The Wall Street Journal named it the best book of 2008. And then, early this week Olive Kitteridge was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
I decided, what the hell, why not give it another try. I say another try because this book has been on my eReader for quite a while.
In fact I have read the first chapter at least three times. Each time I hope that this will be THE time that I become engrossed and read more. . .
It would seem that this is a book I should love. Elizabeth Strout is an amazing writer. Amy and Isabelle is one of my all time favorite books. This is a collection of thirteen loosely related stories about people and their humanity. The language is beautiful and the characters are full bodied and three dimensional, the insights profound.
So I tried again.
This time I skipped the first chapter. I thought maybe the problem was reading about Henry and his low level depression. Perhaps it was the weight of his isolation and loneliness that put me off. This time I started with Chapter 2: "Incoming Tide." In this cheery chapter the low level depression has ratcheted up to actual suicidal depression.
Third time is the charm right? So I skipped over to the chapter entitled "Tulips." I figured a story about those beautiful spring flowers had to be a little more cheerful. I was wrong.
The writing IS beautiful. The descriptions are vivid and often stark. The characters fully dimensional and perhaps even sympathetic is some sort of way. All of that is true. And yet, one more time, I put the books down with a big sigh. I just couldn't do it.
Perhaps I am just perverse. Maybe it is my mood. Maybe I just have no class. Whatever the reason I could not get into this book and stay there.
Make up you own mind by reading a sample. And then let me know what you think.
At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.
As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.