Author(s): Elizabeth Strout
2009 Pulitzer Prize winner in the Letters, Drama and Music category
At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer's eyes, it's in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama--desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love.
At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn't always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive's own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.
As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life - sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition--its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.
"Superb...at once poignant and hopeful." --The Atlantic "A unified cycle of finely observed tales focusing on characters inhabiting a single town... [a] brilliant evocation of emotion...a gratifying stunner...in language we understand with the heart." --The Boston Globe "Masterful...exquisite." --Newark Star-Ledger "Delightful." --Dayton (Ohio) Daily News "One of the year's best...a piece of multitextured music -- [and] a great piece of writing about life in small town America...a fascinating collection...Strout's writing here is deep and masterful. If you're going to read one book of short fiction this year, make it this one." --Buffalo News "Fiction lovers, remember this name: Olive Kitteridge...You'll never forget her. Kudos to Elizabeth Strout...who not only has created a sui generis character in Olive but has done so in brilliantly revealing way...By the end...you'll be madly in love...There is so much to admire here. Strout's craftsmanship -- the way she constructs her stories with rich irony and moments of genuine surprise and intense emotion -- is first rate...Glorious, powerful stuff." --USA Today "You will find yourself thinking about this touching, prickly character long after you have finished [reading]." --Newsweek "The characters are plagued by such profound regrets, resentments and frustrations it's difficult to not empathize with their staggering levels of loneliness and disillusionment...Love and acceptance are the underlying themes Strout carefully buries between the lines of unhappiness throughout the novel, making Olive Kitteridge and her family, friends and foes tangible, set in a story just as real." --Rocky Mountain News "Strout animates the ordinary with astonishing force." --The New Yorker "Mesmerizing." --Tampa Tribune "Strout has a wonderful ability to turn a phrase...[these] pages hold what life puts in: experience, joy, grief, and the sometimes-painful journey to love." --Charlotte Observer "[Abide with Me and Amy and Isabelle] were good; this one is better... it illuminates both what people understand about others and what they understand about themselves... The pleasure in reading Olive Kitteridge comes from an intense identification with complication, not always admirable characters... There's nothing cheap or mawkish here." --The New York Times Book Review "Perceptive, deeply empathetic, and even more deeply flawed, Olive is the axis around which these 13 complex, relentlessly human narratives spin themselves into Elizabeth Strout's unforgettable novel in stories." --O Magazine "[Elizabeth Strout's] themes are how incompletely we know one another, how 'desperately hard every person in the world [is] working to get what they need,' and the redemptive power in little things--a shared memory, a shock of tulips. Her lovely book is one of those." --People "Rarely does a story collection pack such a gusty punch." --Entertainment Weekly (A rating) "These are nervous times for writers and publishers. In the face of dwindling readerships and shortened book lists, no wonder questions about the biz preoccupy us. So it was with a little surprise, and a great deal of pleasure, that, just a few pages into Elizabeth Strout's new novel in stories, Olive Kitteridge, I found myself suspending such questions and experiencing an increasingly rare sensation: the pure joy of reading. Strout as a magnificent gift for humanizing characters... Like Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, this novel in stories captivates us because the characters are so human, the place so vivid... Olive is the strong link here. Funny, wicked and remorseful, Mrs. Kitteridge is a compelling life force, a red-blooded original. When she's not onstage, we look forward to her return. The book is a page-turner because of her." --San Francisco Chronicle "A thoughtful, compelling collection." --Wall Street Journal "Masterfully wrought." --Vanity Fair "Olive Kitteridge is an astringent seventh-grade math teacher with a 'big, intelligent face' and a long history in the fictional town of Crosby, Maine. Don't make the mistake of overlooking her, or the X-acto-knife work of her creator, Elizabeth Strout...Strout chisels beautiful sentences... Reading Olive Kitteridge sets us tingling, throws open a window on our stale assumptions. In blows the startling, salty air of small-town lives." -- Cleveland Plain-Dealer "[Strout] woos us with her sweeping descriptions of lush Maine landscapes...[her] true gift, though, is describing life's finer details; the normal, everyday things that might otherwise be overlooked...Strout's style is as clean and polished as the inside of an oyster shell; flip that shell over, though, and it's layered and gritty." --The Oregonian "Strout is a good writer, able to pain compelling pictures with a few deft brush strokes... Her collection of...characters will stay with you well after the last page is turned." --Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star "Perceptive, deeply empathetic, and even more deeply flawed, Olive is the axis around which these 13 complex, relentlessly human narratives spin themselves in Elizabeth Strout's unforgettable novel in stories, Olive Kitteridge...This is the essence of Olive, contradictory, locked down tight, but capable of flights of emotion all the more beautiful because of their infrequency." -- Pam Houston, O Magazine "Strout's sensitive insights and luminous prose affirm life's pleasures... A perfectly balanced portrait of the human condition, encompassing plenty of anger, cruelty and loss without ever losing sight of the equally powerful presences of tenderness, shared pursuits and lifelong loyalty." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "Olive Kitteridge is bracing and wind-stung, so moving and affecting in its sharp and yet quiet way. Olive is a singular character whose voice can teach a reader about loss and life and yes, even love, the unexpected kind." --Susan Straight "Elizabeth Strout writes beautifully about the compromises and small joys of what we might call mature people. Delicate, nuanced, insightful, and profoundly moving, Olive Kitteridge provides exactly the pleasures and the depths of feeling that I crave when I read fiction." --Ann Packer "Elizabeth Strout restores my faith in the word, in the quality of fiction to shine light on even the dark and still make us feel refreshed and cleansed and glad. Strout is one of our true treasures. My God - she is fun to read." --Richard Bausch "Deeply human... Though loneliness and loss haunt these pages, Strout also supplies gentle humor and a nourishing dose of hope." --Booklist (starred review) "A heart-wrenching, penetrating portrait of ordinary coastal Mainers living lives of quiet grief intermingled with flashes of human connection... [This] collection is easy to read and impossible to forget." --Publishers Weekly (starred) review 'So astonishingly good that I shall be reading it once a year for the foreseeable future and very probably for the rest of my life. A novel woven from 13 interconnected stories, Olive Kitteridge spans the adult life of the eponymous central character, dropping in on the dramas of a cast of characters living in small town Maine as it goes. As perfect a novel as you will ever read' Melanie McGrath, Evening Standard Books of the Year
Elizabeth Strout's tenure as a lawyer (six months) was slightly longer than her career as a stand-up comedian (one night). She has also worked as a bartender, waitress and piano player at bars across the USA. She now teaches literature in New York, where she lives with her husband and daughter.