Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge is the old woman none of us want to be, and are ashamed to admit we already are (even those of us who aren’t old yet). There is something beautiful about a character who you hate while loving her, empathize with despite believing she got exactly what she deserved, and miss when the story is over.

Olive’s story is told not through a continuous chronological narrative, but through a series of short stories, connected by location (most of the time) and by the one character everyone knew – Mrs. Kitteridge, the local junior high math teacher whom everyone is afraid of. Occasionally Olive narrates a story herself, but more often she is a character, often minor and sometimes only mentioned in passing.

A teacher and the wife of the pharmacist in a small town in Maine, Olive knows everyone, and has had some influence, large or small, good or bad, in the lives of everyone. The stories are about her, but not. Above all, they are about relationships, the connectedness of people, and what makes us feel important and connected. It is a heartbreaking yet hopeful story, beautifully told, and at the risk of sounding sentimental and cliché, it will change the way you think about the people in your life. Faults are just faults, we all have them, and they don’t appear out of nowhere.

There is a bit of Olive in all of us I believe (and more in some if us than others, for sure). We need to keep it in check, but also embrace it.

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Random House

ISBN-10: 0812971833

ISBN-13: 978-0812971835

*Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.