Olive Kitteridge


Title: Olive Kitteridge

Author: Elizabeth Strout

Genre: Bestseller/Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 288

Geographical Setting: Crosby, Maine

Time Period: Present day

Series: No

Plot SummaryOlive Kitteridge is a wife, mother, and retired elementary school teacher. She is a sarcastic and resilient woman whose father committed suicide when she was a little girl. Olive lives in the small community of Crosby, ME with her kind and gentle husband Henry, and their son Christopher.

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, thirteen stories of people in her community are told with Olive as the unifying character. This is a novel that addresses the serious topics of anorexia, suicide, aging, and death, while at the same time celebrating the life-affirming themes of love, friendship, and loyalty.

Subject Headings: Loneliness in women, change, teachers, jealousy, despair, humor

Appeal:  Thoughtful, engrossing, compelling, unhurried, strong second characters, bittersweet, contemplative, dramatic, literary, humorous, contemporary, small-town

Three Words or Phrases Best Describing this Book:  Thoughtful, literary, bittersweet

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

Gail Sheehy’s New Passages: Mapping Your Life Across Time is the sequel to her very successful book Passages. New Passages is an examination of changes in life beyond middle age, with Ms. Sheehy encouraging us that the years 45-65 are “not the stagnant, depressing downward slide we have always assumed they would be.”

Positive Solitude: A Practical Program for Mastering Loneliness and Achieving Self-Fulfillment by Rae André addresses both Eastern and Western therapies for loneliness, while calling upon Emerson, Thoreau, Maslow, and May Sarton to define the meaning of solitude.

Marianna Csoti is an author who has written several books on social interaction. In her latest book, Overcoming Loneliness and Making Friends (Overcoming Common Problems), she illustrates the techniques as well as the merits of friendship, as it adds “colour and flavour to an otherwise bland existence.”

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Like the literary structure in Olive Kitteridge, Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists is a novel where individual chapters read like separate short stories. The plot in The Imperfectionists involves the intersecting lives of the men and women who produce a newspaper in Rome.

Where She Went:  Stories by Kate Walbert explores the relationship between Marion Clark, a self-absorbed mother and her daughter Rebecca. Marion is trapped in a conventional 36-year-old marriage and “hollowed out” by depression after the death of her second child.

Nothing Right by Antonya Nelson is an engrossing anthology regarding characters who don’t always like one another, but like Olive and Henry in Olive Kitteridge, stay together to survive life’s ups and downs.

Jane Bessette


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