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.

How can a critical, ornery, self-absorbed character, totally lacking in empathy and manners, become the latest rage in fiction? Well, however it can happen, the popularity of Olive Kitteridge was clearly evident in our group discussion with nearly everyone giving high scores and great praise to Strout for her writing style and character depth.

Without exception there was praise for the short story style and how the whole community was introduced through Olive. A sense of place was quickly created and moving stories of the human condition found a spot in our hearts … just as the author intended, we are sure.

While not a page turner, the readability of Olive was also commented on, ‘ … happy to pick it up’ , and ‘ … couldn’t wait to read on’, were some of the remarks. Others suggested that the writing was pleasant to read because it was ‘not over the top’ or pretentious, and would not hesitate to recommended it as a ‘really good read’.

Quite often a concurring opinion can lead to a somewhat stilted conversation, but in this case we had a lively and completely satisfying discussion with plenty of laughs and recollecting of characters and narratives. In the end the only disagreement came from the likability of Olive. Some grew to like, or at least feel sorry for her, while others continued to loathe her. Which ever the case, we all agreed that Olive Kitteridge, as unlikeable as she might be, was a most interesting character to read about.