Book Review – Olive Kitteridge and Olive, again by Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer for fiction with Olive Kitteridge, it was then made into a limited series and then Olive, again came out last year. I decided I wanted to experience them in order and I’m very glad I did, it was a very rewarding experience.

Olive Kitteridge is an old school teacher, married to Henry Kitteridge a pharmacist and together they have a son that is a podiatrist. They live in Maine and through short stories, glimpses into the lives of people near them we get to know them and their community.

Olive is almost a sort of anti-hero, they way she refuses to follow common etiquette. She’s straightforward to the point of abrasive and this rubs people the wrong way. But this is exactly what makes Olive so fantastic. She is never afraid to speak her mind. She’s observant and curious, but can also be vindictive and judgemental. But what I love about her is that she doesn’t really discriminate, whenever she judges she is clearly a product of her generation and she doesn’t speak on it, but rather contains it within herself.

During Olive Kitteridge – the first book, she is still holding on to this stubbornness and anger inside her. In Olive, again – the second book, she seems to have a lighter feel to her, as if she has let go. She begins to see things differently and she is less moody. Without spoiling anything, Olive goes through some major life changes between the first and second book, and that might be the reason for the change. I grew to care for Olive, both versions. I like her frankness and willingness to talk about anything. She is the type of woman that will always have an opinion.

In the series, Olive Kitteridge is played by Frances McDormand. As a character, I think she nails Olive, but at the same time Olive is described as a larger lady which I don’t see McDormand as. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful series and Olive really comes to life in it. I would highly recommend both books and the series. Of all of them, Olive, again was my favorite. There was something about the stories in the second book that really resonated with me. Though I don’t think I can put my finger on it. Maybe it was Olive, I can’t be sure.

Oprah picked Olive, again for her book club and did an interview with Elizabeth Strout on the Apple series. And this interview and the heart of the author is what made me want to venture into this world. Specifically when asked in the end by Oprah if Olive dies in the end, Strout answered – No! Olive Kitteridge will not die on my watch!