Olive Kitteridge: indomitable, compassionate and often unpredictable. A retired schoolteacher in a small coastal town in Maine, as she grows older she struggles to make sense of the changes in her life. She is a woman who sees into the hearts of those around her, observes their triumphs and tragedies.
We meet her stoic husband, bound to her in a marriage both broken and strong, and a young man who aches for the mother he lost – and whom Olive comforts by her mere presence, while her own son feels overwhelmed by her complex sensitivities.
A penetrating, vibrant exploration of the human soul, the story of Olive Kitteridge will make you laugh, nod in recognition, wince in pain, and shed a tear or two.
Fundamentally, a reader looks for positives with a novel’s protagonist. Relating to a character’s situation, emotions and circumstances is what commonly keeps us interested in a character led story.
And then along comes Olive Kitteridge. Her cantankerous and eccentric ways work well to push, not only those around her away, but also the reader. But as a group we found that if you stick with it, Olive becomes a little more transparent and the vulnerable and even sensitive woman begins to appear. So needless to say, most of us took a while to get into the novel, but the eventual enjoyment value was a good pay off and backed with a quality HBO series, thought to be a great little story.
Although the series (thankfully) did not stray too far from the story line, it was not able to expand the other characters to the degree the book did, which certainly goes a long way to building on and emphasising Olive’s character.
We were able to have a good discussion on personalities, relationships and family dynamics. Someone commented that Olive got a little too relatable … ‘what if my kids see me like that …’ and ‘what we show on the outside determines how others see us’.
As uncomfortable as some of these issues can be, it was a positive lesson on not always taking someone at face value. If we had closed the book after Olive’s first bad-tempered act, we never would have discovered the more caring and good-natured side of Olive Kitteridge. Which would have been a real shame.