There was a certain point in Olive Kitteridge when I was mentally adding it to my best-books-ever list. While it’s still a contender, it’s not quite lingering with me in the way those books do. But I don’t want to give the impression that Olive Kitteridge (henceforth OK) is disappointing or lacking in some way. It’s really brilliant, but also unrelentingly sad.
OK has an interesting construction. Is it a novel or a collection of short stories? Each chapter is a unique stand-alone story, but all the stories are about people in the same small Maine town. Olive herself appears in every story, but sometimes only as a mention. Other times, she is the main character of the chapter/story. To me the book reads more like a novel mainly because the stories begin in the past, but move forward in time. Also, there is progression and change in the characters, including Olive herself.
The first story introduces Olive through a story about her husband, Henry, and his unrequited love for one of his employees. By the end of the book, we have learned from various stories that Henry has had a stroke and has been left completely incapacitated in nursing home. Finally, in another story we learn that he has passed away. The book is a bit like being privy to all the best (and saddest) small town gossip. Continue reading