Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout: A review

I've sometimes thought that Maine would be a great place to live. Land of four seasons; summers that do not feature 100 degree days with 90% humidity and the threat of devastating hurricanes; autumns that feature brilliant colors; and winters with snow. Sounds ideal. 

But then I think about all those white people who live there. Not that I'm prejudiced against white people; after all, I'm one of them. But I do enjoy living in a place where, on any given day, one might encounter any color and any language available in the human condition. Diversity rules!

Still, Crosby, Maine sounds like an idyllic place and it does have its town character, Olive Kitteridge, to recommend it. Yes, I would love to live next door to Olive. She speaks her mind bluntly. She's irascible and does not suffer fools gladly. Or at all. In short, she is everything I aspire to be.

Olive loves her home town, but she recognizes its lack of color diversity and is delighted that a group of Somali refugees has settled in a neighboring town. One of the stories in the linked tales that feature Olive in Elizabeth Strout's latest book features one of these Somalis.

Strout once again uses the same method of storytelling that worked so well in Olive Kitteridge. She gives us what is essentially a series of short stories highlighting a large number of unrelated characters whose lives are touched in some way by Olive. Some of the early stories focus on Olive and her new husband, Jack Kennison, who those readers familiar with the first book will remember. But some stories only have Olive making a cameo appearance while in others she plays a more prominent role. Each of the stories in its own way reveals some aspect of Olive's life and personality. I personally think it is a brilliant way to write about such a formidable character.

Strout has said that she did not intend to write about Olive again, but the character kept nagging at her, and, in the end, she had to acknowledge that there might be more of the story to tell. 

In this book, we see Olive age and face many changes in her life, most of them unwelcome. She goes from around 70 at the beginning to well into her 80s and has health issues as well as relationship issues to deal with. She's not happy with the world she sees changing around her, and yet she retains her love of Nature and the changing seasons and her tough-love empathy for the people around her. She is a marvelous character and I am so glad that Elizabeth Strout decided to write about her once again.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars  

Comments

  1. I agree that diversity is the spice of life. I could not imagine living in a community where everybody was just like me.

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    1. It seems as though it would be quite boring, doesn't it?

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  2. Sounds like a lovely read. I have not read Olive Kitteridge or Olive, Again. I will have to check them out.

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    1. If you like strong women characters, you might find the books to your liking.

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  3. The book sounds good. I would read the series in order were I to read it.

    The quiet and isolation of Maine does sound appealing, but I also like diversity and cosmopolitanism.

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    1. I would definitely recommend that anyone should read Olive Kitteridge first, although I can see that Olive, Again could work as a stand-alone. But the second book is more meaningful, having read the first one already.

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  4. I must admit that I did not like Olive when I met her in the first book. I was quite a bit younger and more opinionated than I am now, so maybe I should give her another chance.

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  5. I remember liking the first Olive novel .... she was one tough cookie and knew her mind. I'd like to read this one too .... wonderful review.

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    1. If you liked her first time around, you'll probably like her even better in this one.

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