Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If you like your literature literary

It's a pretty cover, isn't it?

Here's the description from Booklist:
“Hell. We’re always alone. Born alone. Die alone,” says Olive Kitteridge, redoubtable seventh-grade math teacher in Crosby, Maine. Anyone who gets in Olive’s way had better watch out, for she crashes unapologetically through life like an emotional storm trooper. She forces her husband, Henry, the town pharmacist, into tactical retreat; and she drives her beloved son, Christopher, across the country and into therapy. But appalling though Olive can be, Strout  manages to make her deeply human and even sympathetic, as are all of the characters in this “novel in stories.” Covering a period of 30-odd years, most of the stories feature Olive as  their focus, but in some she is bit player or even a footnote while other characters take center stage to sort through their own fears and insecurities. Though loneliness and loss haunt these pages, Strout also supplies gentle humor and a nourishing dose of hope.

This is one of those books that I wish I knew how I got my hands on it. I mean, why I ever thought I wanted to read it. I imagine it was the whole "Pulitzer Prize" winner thing. I know how I got my hands on it: I got a little pushy at the Saline County Library after I put it on hold, it came in, and by the time I went in the next day to get it, it had already been released to the next person on the list. If I had known they were doing me a favor, I might have just nodded and gone on. I didn't. They got it to me the same week. And I read it. And it's well written, easy to read, but it's just too real for me, too emotional, too filled with the heartbreak of real life. I want to read books with bunnies and rainbows and not real life. Or car chases. This one makes you think.

Like the description says, it's a collection of stories all tied to Olive, who is pretty disagreeable to just about every one. Except when she isn't. She's hard to like, except when she isn't. The first story sets her up to be harsh, hateful, loud, and selfish. And she is. But she is also a loyal wife even when it isn't easy. She desperately loves her son even though she's made serious mistakes. She's solid and reliable for people when the world seems to crumble and she takes care of herself no matter what. 

“She didn’t like to be alone. Even more, she didn’t like being with people.” This sort of reminds of someone I know...

This is not a happy collection of stories. Each one is filled with shadows: loneliness is a big, huge, big theme. These stories are real. And with reality comes dark days. There is a somewhat happy ending, a realistic, able to be accomplished in this world happy ending for Olive. And I think she changes as the stories go, she gets better, more human. Plus, her comfort is her dog. I don't think we ever know the dog's name but he goes on lots of walks and rides to Dunkin Donuts and leaves hair all over the front seat. Believe me, I know how real that is!

If you've put "read a Pulitzer Prize winning novel" on your list of things to do, this might not be a bad one to go with.

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