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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge is a collection of linked stories, most set in a Maine town and all either featuring or mentioning the title character.  Strout captures the feel of a small New England town, and each story is moving in its depiction of the ordinary pleasures and heartbreaks of life.  But it is Olive herself who is the standout of the collection.  She is unlike any other female character I have encountered -- brittle, complicated, abrasive, passionate, and hurting.  She can be remarkably insightful in some ways, as when she acknowledges how much fear rules her life, or with her ability to see right to the heart of people she has only just met.  Yet she can be unthinkingly cruel, and is frustratingly blind to the effect her manner has on others.  Given how often people inanely debate whether a female character is "likeable," Olive Kitteridge is a revelation.  These stories, and Olive herself, are utterly captivating.

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