Monday, May 26, 2008

Olive Kittredge

Haunting stories stay with me today after having finished the collection last night. The collection of short prose pieces centers on a large boned woman whose husband is her counterpoint--soft hearted, generous, gentle. Olive is brusque and does not suffer fools. The stories that are not about Olive are also character driven, with one of the most heart-rending about a teen with an eating disorder. Even when Olive is not the only one holding our undivided attention, she is often in the periphery or remarked on by Olive's neighbors who become the focus of the ancillary stories.

The setting is a character in its own right, the small town in Maine where the Yankee disposition of keeping a stiff upper lip and holding your secrets to yourself is beginning to be chipped away by the openness of celebrity culture and psycho-therapeutic solutions of the early 21st century. We witness Olive in her middle age, and as she advances in years, only to suffer a rift with her only child.

Imagine combining the sensibility of Ray Carver (without the drinking) and Alice Munro. You might begin to feel the strengths of this marvelous writer.

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