One of the books I selected for the Twenty Ten Book Challenge was Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I wanted to get through our club discussion of the book before posting here. It counts as my second “Shiny and New” book and finishes off that category of the challenge.
Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize and tells the story of a small town in Maine and its inimitable retired math teacher, Olive Kitteridge. According to the jacket notes, the story centers around Olive, but in fact, to me, that doesn’t seem the case. In several of the stories, Olive is a mere mention in passing.
I’m really split just about 50/50 on whether I like collections of short stories where a narrative is attempting to be woven through the stories to create a novel. In some instances, it works well and I love it, such as Philip Gulley’s Harmony series and Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe series, both of which I adore. Books like Olive Kitteridge, however, fail to meet the mark for me. In most cases, I feel as though I want to know more about a particular set of characters and nothing at all about other sets. In this case, the book was supposed to revolve around Olive herself, but in fact it was her husband Henry I found to be a more compelling character. I would have loved to know more about Heather, the young woman in the first story who goes to work for Henry and ultimately endures a series of tragedies. I did not care much at all for the tween, for the guy with the mother who killed herself, or for many of the other characters.
The book was OK, when I was interested in it, I was really interested in it, but for the most part, it was a bit of a chore to work my way through and left me dissatisfied. I generously gave it 3 stars on GoodReads—didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, it just was.