‘Olive, Again’ by Elizabeth Strout – She’s Back


‘Olive, Again’ by Elizabeth Strout (2019) – 289 pages

Olive Kitteridge of the small town of Crosby, Maine is getting old, but she still is a lively strong character who gets around the streets of the town.

In one story the husband of younger housewife Candy calls Olive Kitteridge an “old bag”. However Olive is one of only two people in town who will still stop by to visit with Candy. Candy’s other old friends are too scared. Candy is receiving radiation treatments for cancer, has lost all her hair, and is unsure if the current treatments will be successful.

Olive, you’re the kind of person people want to talk to.”

I don’t know about that,” Olive said.

Several shocking surprising goings on play against readers’ expectations of what goes on in a small town. Murder, arrests, several would-be suicides, family sexual abuse. These things do happen in small towns, but they get swept under the living room carpet. In the fictional works of Strout, the terrible events in the small town of Crosby, Maine, are brought out in the open. I would call her attitude small-town fatalism.

Elizabeth Strout gets to the crux of things, of life and death, which gives these linked stories more depth than you would expect. The stories are about the events, both good and bad, that make up each person’s life. The reader identifies with these not always admirable characters. Along the way, Strout achieves these moments of real near-wordless profundity.

These were openings into the darkness of a relationship one saw by mistake, as if inside a dark barn, the door had momentarily been blown off and one saw things not meant to be seen.”

Also we get glimpses of Olive’s own family life. At the beginning of ‘Olive, Again’, Olive remarries at age 70. Olive is not close to her own only son and his family who live in New York, but finally they come to visit her.

So there was this: Her son had married his mother, as all men – in some form or other – eventually do.”

Having an old person, Olive Kitteridge, near the center of your stories means you can deal with both life and death in them. Elizabeth Strout takes full advantage of this.

She was going to die. It seemed extraordinary to her, amazing. She had never really believed it before.”

The last two stories are about the hard truths we all must eventually contend with. Actually all the stories deal with hard truths of one sort or another. Elizabeth Strout’s fiction is the opposite of escapism.


Grade:    A



2 responses to this post.

  1. This book sounds awesome. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person


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