There are so many pluses and only one minus to being in a book club. The minus is that there are so many books out there that I would like to read. That is a problem because I never seem to find enough time to get to my "want to reads" because I am often times slogging through my "needs to be read in time for book club" reads. As a result, this is my night table - stacked with good intentions.
I don't know when I will ever get them all read. Just yesterday I was at B & N and bought another one; The Roses. So the pile grows. I never seem to whittle it down.I Read one. Add one. Read one. Add one. It's a wonderfully vicious circle.
On the other hand, the upside to being in a book club, outside of the obvious time with friends, good food and good wine is that I am exposed to books that I would probably not otherwise read. Olive Kitteridge is one of those books. Until this month I wasn't even aware of its existence despite the fact that it won a Pulitzer in 2009. So thank you Molly for selecting this book.
This novel is a series of short stories that are subtly intertwined by the repeating appearance of the namesake central character, Olive Kitteridge. The book is set in a small gossip ridden town in Maine but it is anything but provincial because these stories and events could take place anywhere.
I really enjoyed Elizabeth Strout's complicated characters. They reminded me of various people I have known. They are neither black or white but undulating shades of grey. I would vacillate between empathizing with them in one chapter and then thinking that their particular point of view was way off the mark in the next. The author doesn't lead the reader to draw any conclusions one way or another about these people. Instead, she masterfully presents the stories and situations through the dialog of the various characters. In the end each reader brings to the story his or her own past experiences that ultimately influence the way they interpret each of the many complex characters.
The following in one of my favorite passages from the book. It exemplifies how matter of fact Olive is and how she just tells it like she sees it. In this scene Olive is corresponding by email with a recent acquaintance about the fact that neither of them have a positive or close relationship with their adult children.
She waited two days. Then she wrote: "My son hates me too."
An hour later came the response. "Does it kill you? It kills me that my daughter hates me. But I know it's my fault."
She wrote immediately. "It kills me. Like the devil. And it must be my fault too, though I don't understand it. I don't remember things the way he seems to remember them.
It is such a simple exchange yet it so raw and says so much. Whether you like Olive is a matter of opinion and perspective but you have to admire her honesty and her simple speak. This is definitely a book you should move to the top of your reading pile.