Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge is a "novel in stories". It is in fact, a series of 13 stories. The novel is set in Crosby, Maine a similar Northeast setting as Strout's other titles Abide With Me and Amy and Isabelle. Olive is a junior high teacher who lives in Crosby with her husband, Greg a pharmacist, and son, Christopher. Not all the stories focus on Olive and her life as they are centered on the town of Crosby, but she is the link. We accompany Olive through close to 30 years as she struggles through this thing we call life and all its challenges with love, bad communication, aging, raising children, depression, lonliness, and loss.
This is a novel about how we think life is going to be and then the harsh realilties of what really plays out. It asks the questions do we ever really know someone and do we ever really know ourselves? Strout's mastery is in how she writes about and through the layers of human emotions and interpersonal relationships, about the universal message of what it is to be deeply human in all its messy imperfections. Short stories are something readers either love or hate. Either way, I encourage you to try this book as it keeps you reading into the next and the next story. Olive Kitteridge is another one of my Best Fiction of 2009 titles!