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Olive Kitteridge: Fiction

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In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge. At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge. 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 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. From the Hardcover edition.


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In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge. At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge. 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 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. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for Olive Kitteridge: Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

    first and foremost, i would like to congratulate myself for finishing this. for what i thought would take no more than two days to get through; it took about a week. A WEEK! i read the same paragraphs over and over, thinking that perhaps i was missing something. something elegant, ruminating, and unforgettable that the pulitzer board saw, which clearly i couldn't. but no, i wasn't missing anything (except for maybe hours of my life). ooh, i feel like old ladies will see this and hate me ... but first and foremost, i would like to congratulate myself for finishing this. for what i thought would take no more than two days to get through; it took about a week. A WEEK! i read the same paragraphs over and over, thinking that perhaps i was missing something. something elegant, ruminating, and unforgettable that the pulitzer board saw, which clearly i couldn't. but no, i wasn't missing anything (except for maybe hours of my life). ooh, i feel like old ladies will see this and hate me ... but i don't care! this book was borrring and lackluster; a snoozefest. there was such an initial appeal to these stories; set in coastal maine (how i looove it there) and an irrational, old miser of a lady to connect them all. i was sorely mistaken. this time, my soft spot for an old crank didn't beat, nor did it beat for anyone else around her. oh, and not only were these stories boring, but painfully depressing as well. how can anyone under the age of 50 read this w/o feeling dejected of their future?? if this book is representative of what truly happens with the ravages of age, maybe we're better off dying quickly and young. then again, i'd like to think that by a ripe, old, stinky age, i'd have lived a meaningful and sensational life, unlike olive kitteridge. so far, i feel i've already had. so there, take that elizabeth strout, just you try and break me...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Scott Axsom

    I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and I’ve struggled since to find the reasons why Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge struck me so deeply. So let me start by just saying; this book was awesome. Appreciating the reasons why, however, required from me considerable introspection. The subtlety of its beauty is indeed the mark of a great novel. I came to this book reluctantly and I’m not sure why - anything with a Pulitzer usually draws me like a bear to honey - but perhaps it was due to the I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and I’ve struggled since to find the reasons why Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge struck me so deeply. So let me start by just saying; this book was awesome. Appreciating the reasons why, however, required from me considerable introspection. The subtlety of its beauty is indeed the mark of a great novel. I came to this book reluctantly and I’m not sure why - anything with a Pulitzer usually draws me like a bear to honey - but perhaps it was due to the structure. I’m not a fan, by nature, of the novel-in-stories format. Sure, I loved A Visit from the Goon Squad but that was the exception proving the rule for me. To make matters worse here, the first chapter in Olive Kitteridge introduces us to the title character and she’s just not a very nice person, at least where her treatment of her husband is concerned. Strout’s use of the novel-in-stories form, however, is pitch-perfect for the fundamental story she tells. She introduces us to a title character who appears to be considerably less than worthy as the subject of an entire novel. Then, through the use of deeply honest and insightful chapters about nearly unrelated characters, she paints a picture of this character that is infinitely richer than I originally assumed. And here is the beauty of Strout’s use of this form; she lead me to discover that the assumptions I’d made about a complex human being (as each inherently is) were necessarily as narrow as the context of their formulation. Strout's character development is a subject worthy of a college course. Throughout Olive Kitteridge she introduces us to characters whose situations resonate and whose responses to those situations are as believable as they are often maddening. And through it all, Olive Kitteridge’s impact on those characters and their lives comes peeking through again and again until I begin to realize, 'Wow, this woman, for whom I didn’t care so much, has had a profoundly positive impact on her world'. And this, I think, brings us to the real genius behind Elizabeth Strout’s work in Olive Kitteridge. She has taken the novel-in-stories and used it to introduce us to the many diverse and far-flung characters upon whose disparate lives her title character has imparted some bit of change, some bit of love, or wisdom, or influence, and in doing so Strout has shown that we are infinitely complex creatures who, no matter how long or short our duration on this plane, will leave change in our wake. The character Olive Kitteridge was recognizable as much for her inherent nobility as for her glaring flaws and she reminded me of this: Though people are complicated, often less than noble, always imperfect creatures, each of us has profound significance in this world. And for that wonderful bit of enlightenment, I’ll never forget her. As did Winter Wheat , this book altered my view of humanity and, for that, I feel both oddly indebted (she is make-believe, after all) to Olive Kitteridge and deeply grateful for the work of Elizabeth Strout.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Posted at Shelf Inflicted This is a collection of stories about a group of ordinary people living in a small town in Maine, their joys, sorrows, tragedies and grief, all centered around the main character, Olive Kitteridge. Normally, this is the kind of fiction I stay away from. I was afraid it would be an overwrought melodrama about provincial people living in a boring town. Yet, I was so absorbed by the lives of these people and had a difficult time putting the book down. The characters were Posted at Shelf Inflicted This is a collection of stories about a group of ordinary people living in a small town in Maine, their joys, sorrows, tragedies and grief, all centered around the main character, Olive Kitteridge. Normally, this is the kind of fiction I stay away from. I was afraid it would be an overwrought melodrama about provincial people living in a boring town. Yet, I was so absorbed by the lives of these people and had a difficult time putting the book down. The characters were very well developed, the town vividly described, and the emotions raw. Olive Kitteridge left me feeling very unsettled. I admire her quiet strength, her forthrightness, her realistic views of life, and the fact that she controls her emotions. I hate her brusqueness, her self-centeredness, and her difficulty with accepting changes. She was a complex character, definitely not your stereotypical cranky old lady. Each story is presented from different viewpoints and shows Olive’s many sides as she interacts with family, neighbors and friends, as she experiences age, loneliness, grief and love. The characters are realistically drawn with such an emotional depth that I found I could easily identify with them and even see similarities to people I know. Olive Kitteridge makes me hate those qualities in myself that are like hers and makes me look at others with more patience and a less judgmental eye.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Olive Kitteridge is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning collection of stories that constitute a novel. They are not as closely woven together as the multi-generational tales in works by Louise Erdrich, another writer who likes to collect small parts into a larger whole, but Strout has put together a compelling portrait of a small town. I was reminded of Spoon River, as we learn some of the secrets each of the main characters protects. Lake Wobegon came to mind, as well. It most resembles Winesburg, Ohio, Olive Kitteridge is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning collection of stories that constitute a novel. They are not as closely woven together as the multi-generational tales in works by Louise Erdrich, another writer who likes to collect small parts into a larger whole, but Strout has put together a compelling portrait of a small town. I was reminded of Spoon River, as we learn some of the secrets each of the main characters protects. Lake Wobegon came to mind, as well. It most resembles Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson’s joined tales of alienation in small-town America. Olive Kitteridge is the organizational core connecting the thirteen stories. She appears in each one, sometimes as a primary character, sometimes as a secondary and in others by one of the characters referring to her. Elizabeth Strout - from her fans FB site Loneliness was the predominant theme in the town of Crosby, Maine, loneliness or the fear of it. Most of the stories touch on relationships sagging, empty or gone, getting through emotional hard times and wondering if it is all worth the effort. There is a chilly New England sensibility here, characters that are unable to move past their stiff upper lips. Communication is guarded, often absent, but always made manifest in actions, if not words. Some succumb to their worst impulses, others find their way through to some sort of reconciliation with life’s travails. Yet hope pops up just as frequently, like crocuses in March. Frances McDormand as Olive – from a NY Times article on the actress Olive journeys through her trials, her marriage, her relationship with her son, her potential marital digression. She seems clueless as to her effect on others, and can be glaringly harsh, while displaying the capacity for kindness and understanding. The writing is brilliant, taut, dense, a torte, and thus, a joy. A short-story writer’s talent for telling large amounts in small spaces, repeated 13 times. Personally, I felt the tales had maybe a bit too much resonance. I recognized emotions, if not always specific situations, (and yeah, some specific situations too) that I have experienced, and saw through the eyes of a third party experiences that were likely to have been a part of the history of people in my life. Is it a good thing that a writer can make you squirm through such recognition? Olive grows as a character, gaining some self-awareness, softening some hard edges, finding some light in a dark place. November 2019 - I just re-read Olive in anticipation of reading the sequel. This book blew me away on the second reading too. Here's my review of Olive, Again. =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages The facebook link is to a fan site, not to Strout herself Here is the Official Site for the HBO production A nice profile of Strout on Wiki 11/3/14 - I saw the 1st episode of the HBO series - (and later saw the rest) dazzling! Must see!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Today's the big day. . . my 500th review for Goodreads. Drum roll, please! Hmmm. . . No drum roll? No compensation? No accolades, either? Ah, hell. I don't care. I just want to read and write and read and write and read and write, and almost every review I've ever written here on Goodreads, from the completely anonymous to the refreshingly well-received, has made me want to click my shiny red heels with joy. And I don't need to close my eyes and intonate there's no place like home, there's no place Today's the big day. . . my 500th review for Goodreads. Drum roll, please! Hmmm. . . No drum roll? No compensation? No accolades, either? Ah, hell. I don't care. I just want to read and write and read and write and read and write, and almost every review I've ever written here on Goodreads, from the completely anonymous to the refreshingly well-received, has made me want to click my shiny red heels with joy. And I don't need to close my eyes and intonate there's no place like home, there's no place like home, because I could be anywhere in this world, and, as long as I have a book or a pen in my hand, I am home. There are few living writers today that take me home in the way that Elizabeth Strout does, or in the way that Olive Kitteridge did. Or, I should clarify. . . so few living writers today who can take me home AND make me homesick for a place I've never found, at the same time. It's a rare accomplishment. In truth, the woman pisses me off. Who does she think she is, sitting there, staring at her blank screen, dreaming up 13 short stories that come together as a novel that brilliantly gives you enough glimpses of one woman, one Olive Kitteridge to give her the staying power to become iconic? (And go on to be immortalized by Frances McDormand in the 2014 miniseries that is not to be missed). Who does she think she is, dreaming up characters you either love or hate in this quirky town of Crosby, Maine, and making you think that you might want to live in that God-forsaken, bitter cold place? Who does she think she is, making you hate Olive, then seeing yourself so vividly in her, you must put the book down for a moment to stare at your fidgety fingers in discomfort? Poor Olive, she didn't like to be alone. Even more, she didn't like being with people. Poor Olive, realizing that deep down there is a thing inside [her] and sometimes it swells up like the head of a squid and shoots blackness through [her]. Poor Olive, she would have sat on a patch of cement anywhere to have this—her son; a bright buoy bobbing in the bay of her own quiet terror. Poor Olive, How could anyone be afraid of her? She was the one who was afraid! I connected and related to Olive so deeply, I spoke out loud to her a few times, during this re-read. I wanted her to know that I understood, that I often felt the same way. I didn't want her to feel alone. This isn't a perfect novel. A couple of the stories (that have too little Olive in them) lag; but I wasn't looking for perfection, just the absence of pretension. No pretension here, people. Just the pure act of writing without judgement and a story that clearly emerged from the deepest, loneliest passages of Elizabeth Strout's gut. This is one of those stories that takes you home, to that imperfect place you call home here on earth, and, yes, you're going to get a little homesick once you get there, too.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jaline

    This novel is definitely about Olive Kitteridge: who she is, who she was, and most importantly, the “who” that she sees within herself. Her story is told through a series of connected stories: friends, neighbours, past students, people she knows in passing. It is interesting, and oh, so intriguing, that many people view her from so many different perspectives, yet there are also common threads of viewpoint. Many of the stories are not about Olive Kitteridge at all, yet she moves in and out of each This novel is definitely about Olive Kitteridge: who she is, who she was, and most importantly, the “who” that she sees within herself. Her story is told through a series of connected stories: friends, neighbours, past students, people she knows in passing. It is interesting, and oh, so intriguing, that many people view her from so many different perspectives, yet there are also common threads of viewpoint. Many of the stories are not about Olive Kitteridge at all, yet she moves in and out of each story – sometimes as a presence to be reckoned with, sometimes like a wraith, sometimes as someone who is or was feared, sometimes as someone to be pitied or even scorned. Elizabeth Strout’s writing is confident and strong, as are some of her characters. She allows us to feel the full impact of these character’s personalities. On the surface, these are people we could meet and experience in our everyday lives. Elizabeth Strout takes us on a journey that skims the surface and then takes us deeper and deeper into the characters – their thoughts, feelings; the inner lives where all is definitely not as it appears at first glance. The psychological depths are fascinating because although the spotlight shines on one or two characters per chapter (or story), it is often in how others respond or react to them that we gain the most insight. And it is those insights that gave me further insight into myself – and my own family and friends. Although this is primarily Olive Kitteridge’s story, it illustrates so well that no matter how isolated one feels, or lonely, or oppressed, or confused, or blissfully oblivious, not one of us is an island. The world, the people in it – we are all in motion and that motion has impact: ours on others and others’ on us. This is a novel whose stories can be found everywhere, and we are so fortunate that Elizabeth Strout’s gift brings us that realization, but also envelopes us in our shared humanity and tells us it is okay to be who we are and to continue growing into who we want to be.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I don't quite understand what the hubbub was about this book: it did after all get a Pulitzer and TV show. However, I felt that the writing was ok, the narration was interesting, but I never even came close to feeling some sympathy or connection to Olive like I did for Updike's Rabbit Angstrom or, say, Bellow's Dean Corde. The New England she describes as anti-Semitic and full of silent scandals was more interesting and fun in, say Updike's Witches of Eastwick. It was a little unsettling and I don't quite understand what the hubbub was about this book: it did after all get a Pulitzer and TV show. However, I felt that the writing was ok, the narration was interesting, but I never even came close to feeling some sympathy or connection to Olive like I did for Updike's Rabbit Angstrom or, say, Bellow's Dean Corde. The New England she describes as anti-Semitic and full of silent scandals was more interesting and fun in, say Updike's Witches of Eastwick. It was a little unsettling and disappointing to leave most of the stories in suspension (if not all of them) and I felt that the Christopher character and his two wives were pretty two dimensional. The overall aura was oppressive and depressing. I am not sure I would come back to this one. I have now read all the Pulitzers from 2011 and 4 from the previous decade and I'd have to say that this one, The Known World by Edward P Jones and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr were all disappointing...I wonder what the list will look like for 2017. Anyone read City on Fire for which the first-time author got an astonishing $2M advance from the publisher?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Oh bestill my heart. I am not worthy. I AM NOT WORTHY! How, in the name of all that is holy, does Elizabeth Strout do it? I mean, how does she create a book out of a collage of stories, linked by one exceptionally prickly, ornery yet honest character, through writing that is at once complex and invitingly simple? HOW? This 2009 Pulitzer winner is fully deserving of its accolades and superfans. I read this with keen interest and pleasure all the way through. It's a collection of 13 stories which Oh bestill my heart. I am not worthy. I AM NOT WORTHY! How, in the name of all that is holy, does Elizabeth Strout do it? I mean, how does she create a book out of a collage of stories, linked by one exceptionally prickly, ornery yet honest character, through writing that is at once complex and invitingly simple? HOW? This 2009 Pulitzer winner is fully deserving of its accolades and superfans. I read this with keen interest and pleasure all the way through. It's a collection of 13 stories which could stand alone, but which are linked because they take place in the same small community of Crosby, Maine and feature (either prominently or in the background) caustic but decent Olive Kitteridge. Each story is so intimate. Through the everyday lives of these people, Strout delves deep into the heart. Almost to the point where I felt I was reading someone's diary. I really felt I knew these people. I've heard complaints that this book is depressing. Really? Have you looked at real life, lately? God. For some reason after I finished reading this book I thought about some long-time family friends. Friends of my parents - both teachers, lovely people. He played organ at their church. She kept their beautiful home neat as a pin. They had two kids, one of which has Down syndrome (and who still lives with them part time today at the age of 38). As the years went on, she developed migraines and a heart condition. Then their house was lost in a flood and they got no insurance money, had to start over financially at retirement age. Their relationship with their daughter is complex and often unpleasant, so it's not always easy to see their three grandchildren. He has now been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. So it goes. This is life... it's not always pretty. It's not easy. We all struggle and go through the shit. And in the midst of the shit, there are these revelatory, redemptive moments. Maybe they are private moments, maybe not. Maybe they don't change the trajectory of our lives, maybe they do. But they make it all worthwhile. And that is just what Strout captures so brilliantly: the human experience.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    It's incredibly difficult to find substance in the ordinary. This novel in episodes, all revolving around the ever enigmatic Olive, does something extraordinary: each tale is so rich with description, so tangible (I believe I breathed in the saltiness of the Maine coast, practically) that they ...transcend. There is actually nothing innovatory in Elizabeth Strout's fantastic short story collection but she knows perfectly well how to orchestrate a fabulous and gut-wrenching short story: every It's incredibly difficult to find substance in the ordinary. This novel in episodes, all revolving around the ever enigmatic Olive, does something extraordinary: each tale is so rich with description, so tangible (I believe I breathed in the saltiness of the Maine coast, practically) that they ...transcend. There is actually nothing innovatory in Elizabeth Strout's fantastic short story collection but she knows perfectly well how to orchestrate a fabulous and gut-wrenching short story: every single one of her thirteen becomes a flawless portrait in & of itself. In the fictional town of Crosby, Maine, the skeletons-in-the-denizen's-closets include thoughts of suicide, deaths, marriages, affairs. Somehow, the only other writer that's able to manifest this type of impact on the reader is Jhumpa Lahiri (it is little coincidence that her beauty of a novel, "Interpreter of Maladies" like "Olive Kitteridge" also won the Pulitzer). The literature of today is about strong, emotionally-charged episodes, readings as comforting as donuts (a motif in the novel) to the reader. The theme shall never become a cliche: To appreciate what you have when you have it, regardless of your age or gender. Everyone's human after all...

  10. 4 out of 5

    jo

    don't know if it was me being meditative or moody or under the sobering influence of the recession, but i found this absolutely gorgeous book SO DAMN SAD. there are, let's see, at least two suicides but it might be three, three deaths but it might be more (one the death of a very young person), intolerably sad aging folks, a myriad broken relationships, and a ton of god-awful loneliness. how can a town as sweet and stably populated as crosby, maine, foster so much loneliness? aren't small towns don't know if it was me being meditative or moody or under the sobering influence of the recession, but i found this absolutely gorgeous book SO DAMN SAD. there are, let's see, at least two suicides but it might be three, three deaths but it might be more (one the death of a very young person), intolerably sad aging folks, a myriad broken relationships, and a ton of god-awful loneliness. how can a town as sweet and stably populated as crosby, maine, foster so much loneliness? aren't small towns supposed to be all about people knowing each other and supporting each other and all that? why don't the lonely people go hang out at the diner and have themselves a cup of coffee, chat the day away? i mean, really. i understand being alone in miami or new york or los angeles, but how can you be so lonely in crosby, maine? i guess american writers and filmmakers have worked very hard at showing us that you can be plenty lonely in small town america, but somehow this is sinking in now for the first time, thanks to Olive Kitteridge. i think i'll stay in the big city, where at least you can be lonely with some privacy, out of the probing gaze of your gossiping neighbors. but see, gossip is this two-sided thing. one the one hand, it can cut you down and shrink you (if you let it). on the other, it keeps people talking. when someone dies, everyone shows up at the funeral. when someone goes to the hospital, everyone asks after them. maybe the person who is asked would rather be left alone, but there's something to be said in favor of being asked (this is actually the point of one of these thirteen stories). a gossiping community is a community in which everyone is mourned. there is no indifference and almost never glee at people's death, however disliked they may have been in life. groups come together for the death of their own. this is something to be said for small towns. and after all, no one is immune to loneliness. it's the human condition. which is precisely why this book is so sad: one would rather not be reminded. in one lovely scene (there are countless lovely scenes in this book) olive kitterdidge finds out that an elderly man, an out-of-towner she stopped to talk to, just lost his wife of a lifetime. "then you are in hell," she says, matter-of-factly. "then i am in hell," he replies. olive kitteridge, the nominal protagonist of this "novel in stories," is a masterpiece of writerly wisdom. she is wrong and intolerable in all sorts of ways: she is rude, judgmental, selfish, a bad mother, and a bad wife. she is ungainly and has bad taste in clothing. she is one of those people who, by rights, should not be much liked, and in fact she isn't. but to us she is us. if we were her, we'd find a way to come to terms with ourselves and be proud of at least something. so we come to terms with olive kitteridge. we forgive her. we forgive ourselves. we return over and over to the things she/we did well, that one time when she/we saved a person's life without much awareness of what we were doing; that other time when this kid who didn't talk to anyone talked to her/us. it's amazing how a novel that does not focus entirely on one character (in some of the stories she is just named once or twice) should manage to make this character, nonetheless, so real and compelling. the compulsion is to identify with her. but maybe it was me, bummed and worried about the recession and not too pleased with myself. i identified. identification is the path to compassion. this book helped me be see others, maybe myself too, with a little more compassion.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    As I write my review, I see that there are thousands of reviews already, so what can I add? Just this: Olive joins the ranks of depressing small town short stories, a long-running theme in American literature, so much so that it is almost a genre in itself. These stories are set in coastal Maine. Olive follows upon Winesburg Ohio by Sinclair Lewis, Main Travelled Roads by Hamlin Garlin, Village by Robert McAlmon and many others. (We could call it Winesburg, Maine.) What is the value of such As I write my review, I see that there are thousands of reviews already, so what can I add? Just this: Olive joins the ranks of depressing small town short stories, a long-running theme in American literature, so much so that it is almost a genre in itself. These stories are set in coastal Maine. Olive follows upon Winesburg Ohio by Sinclair Lewis, Main Travelled Roads by Hamlin Garlin, Village by Robert McAlmon and many others. (We could call it Winesburg, Maine.) What is the value of such stories? I think they show us “So, you think you’ve got it tough?” How about suicide? Or having a son imprisoned for stabbing a woman 29 times? Or finding out your husband had been unfaithful on the day of his funeral? Or having an only child who moves away and ignores you? As I was reading I kept thinking, ok, the theme is life goes on no matter what; you just keep on living. Concurrently I happened to be reading a great novel, Portraits of a Marriage, by the Hungarian Sandor Marai, which I also reviewed. As her marriage is disintegrating, one of the characters in that book, rails, in effect, “What am I, a tree? I can’t just go on LIVING; what I am supposed to live FOR?” Maybe Olive finds someone in the last chapter, but this “FOR” is the big unanswered question. Still a great book of interconnected stories, with Olive’s hands making the connections.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Betrayal Olive Kitteridge is a Pulitzer Prize Winner for fiction, which is breath-taking in its beauty and eloquence. The structure of the novel is 13 episodic stories, which provide a candid and searching insight into a small community in the coastal town of Crosby in Maine. It would be unfortunate to race through the pages without savouring the atmosphere, the wonderful sense of time, and the rich array of fascinating characters that enhance the human relationships on display. It takes the Betrayal Olive Kitteridge is a Pulitzer Prize Winner for fiction, which is breath-taking in its beauty and eloquence. The structure of the novel is 13 episodic stories, which provide a candid and searching insight into a small community in the coastal town of Crosby in Maine. It would be unfortunate to race through the pages without savouring the atmosphere, the wonderful sense of time, and the rich array of fascinating characters that enhance the human relationships on display. It takes the little breaks between stories to reflect on the mastery of prose and the observational expression of Elizabeth Strout. Olive Kitteridge is the indomitable presence throughout the book. Some stories have the faintest mention of Olive while in others she impacts with the overbearing resolve of a woman that is determined to get what she wants. Olive is rarely the focal point, but she acts as a magnet drawing each story to exist in her presence. Olive is an ex-school teacher, a tall and often clumsy woman, but as the years progress she becomes big, “… her ankles puffed out, her shoulders rolled up behind her neck, and her wrists and hands seemed to become the size of a man’s. Olive minds – of course she does; sometimes, privately, she minds very much. But at this stage of the game, she is not about to abandon the comfort of food, and that means right now she probably looks like a fat dozing seal wrapped in some kind of gauze bandage.” Olive has a formidable presence and a complexity that is intriguing and undefinable. While she offers very little filter in her comments and consideration of others, and thinks it ludicrous to cry at weddings, she cries when she sees a young anorexic girl, Nina. “Olive shook her head again, blew her nose. She looked at Nina and said quietly, ‘I don’t know who you are, but young lady, you’re breaking my heart.’ ‘I’m not trying to,’ said Nina, defensively. ‘It’s not like I can help it.’ ‘Oh, I know that. I know.’ Olive nodded.” The first story is a touching story of her husband, Harry, who is a pharmacist, and his relationship with a young married assistant who tragically loses her husband. The relationship is subtly transformed from a platonic friendship to the delicate suggestion of deeper feelings as he allows himself to imagine what life would be like with this young woman. The emotional conflict burdens him until he finally asks Olive if she would ever leave him. “Oh, for God’s sake Henry. You could make a woman sick.” she responds. Most of the following stories reverberate with a sense of betrayal. You can feel the connection with the characters, laugh through incidents, be astounded by some events, nod in recognition with many, and shed a tear or two at others. The writing is emotionally stimulating and reveals such vivid moments that give breath to sentiments you may not have been expecting. This is a wonderful reading experience, infused with beautiful prose, images and feelings that we all encounter or witness throughout our lives. I would highly recommend this book. The reason why I jumped to read this book after it sitting on my bookshelf for so long, was that the sequel, Olive, Again, is due for release on 31st October this year.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    You don’t have to love Olive Kitteridge to love Olive Kitteridge. Thinking of Olive the person, to say she’s multidimensional doesn’t go far enough. I need a new word—hyperdimensional, maybe. And she’s often at the extremes, in ways that may be positive, negative, paradoxical, or shifting. She’s the central figure in every other one of the 13 separate stories, and in the ones that focus on others she’s a secondary reference point (though hardly a fixed one). We certainly get a chance to know her You don’t have to love Olive Kitteridge to love Olive Kitteridge. Thinking of Olive the person, to say she’s multidimensional doesn’t go far enough. I need a new word—hyperdimensional, maybe. And she’s often at the extremes, in ways that may be positive, negative, paradoxical, or shifting. She’s the central figure in every other one of the 13 separate stories, and in the ones that focus on others she’s a secondary reference point (though hardly a fixed one). We certainly get a chance to know her many sides. Olive had taught seventh grade math at the local school in Crosby, Maine, and was well-known if not uniformly well-liked around town. People did consistently think well of her husband Henry, the friendly pharmacist and church regular, which sometimes grated on her nerves. "Never trust folks," Olive's mother told her years ago, after someone left a basket of cow flaps by their front door. Henry got irritated by that way of thinking. But Henry was pretty irritating himself, with his steadfast way of remaining naive, as though life were just what a Sears catalogue told you it was: everyone standing around smiling. We get a sense early on that Olive is forthright in her opinions. You could even lose the euphemism and call her blunt or abrasive: She said: "You're the one who can't stand these Hail-Mary Catholics! Your mother taught you that! Pauline was the only real Christian in the world, as far as Pauline was concerned. And her good boy, Henry." Then at other times she came across as kind. In one story, she met an anorexic girl who quite unexpectedly brought Olive to tears. Her empathy seemed to grow with her own later-in-life self-awareness. Sometimes, like now, Olive had a sense of just how desperately hard every person in the world was working to get what they needed. For most, it was a sense of safety, in the sea of terror that life increasingly became. People thought love would do it, and maybe it did. But […] it was never enough, was it? Olive was a fascinating character with traits that occasionally seemed at odds with one another. This, from the book, speaks to that: “She didn't like being alone. Even more, she didn't like being with people.” She was also stoic while vulnerable, unapologetic while sensitive, and perceptive about plights while blind to her own role in causing them. I could go on a lot longer identifying her quirks, but that would be very un-Strout-like of me do so. We get our impressions of each person with a wonderful economy of words. With all of Olive’s attributes I’ve mentioned, the other characters bring that many more. One thing they share is something Strout talked about afterwards: In order to imagine what it feels like to be another person I have to use my own experiences and responses to the world. I have to pay attention to what I have felt and observed, then push these responses to an extreme while keeping the story within the realm of being psychologically and emotionally true. The feeling that her characters were human and real came through on every page. And like actual people we know, their lives can’t be captured by a single tile of a mosaic. I came to really appreciate the structure of the book that had so many perspectives and viewing angles. Half an hour into the book I told my wife this seemed like a 3.5 to 4 star book—pretty good, but with a main character I thought was unidimensionally unlikeable. Half an hour later, with more tiles in place, I told her it was a 4.5 to 5 stars, and it only went up from there. It’s not a long book, but it presents its themes well. Family dynamics feature prominently. Olive and Henry’s son was an interesting result of Olive’s variability, not always a happy one. I’ve mentioned very little of the stories focusing on other people in town, but they had plenty of heft too. Grief, loneliness, love, infidelity, aging, thoughts of ending it all, and the simple challenges of everyday life—it’s all addressed with writing that’s both artful and clear. And as Olive and the others come to learn more of themselves, we may learn more of ourselves as well.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    I've listened to 4 stories out of 13 and I think I've had enough. This book should come with a Depressed Senior Citizen Characters warning. I am sure my impression of this book is colored by the awful narrator/actor who read every character, regardless of the age and gender, as a 80-year old screeching and bleating elderly person (no offense to elderly), but the fact is the majority (if not all) of characters are old and/or miserable. 1/4th of the book is over, and I have encountered: an elderly I've listened to 4 stories out of 13 and I think I've had enough. This book should come with a Depressed Senior Citizen Characters warning. I am sure my impression of this book is colored by the awful narrator/actor who read every character, regardless of the age and gender, as a 80-year old screeching and bleating elderly person (no offense to elderly), but the fact is the majority (if not all) of characters are old and/or miserable. 1/4th of the book is over, and I have encountered: an elderly man pining over a young woman; a bitter and jealous elderly wife (Olive Kitteridge herself); their miserable son getting married and finally moving out of his parents' house at the ripe age of 38; a single 50-year old woman - a piano player, an alcoholic and a lover of a married man. And this tiny town, where the story is set, has the highest number of suicidal/depressed people I've encountered in literature. The whole atmosphere of Olive Kitteridge is just so dreary, dull and depressing, with not a moment of hope or joy. Yeah, I am done with it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Just loved these stories... Olive, what a character.. and Henry, who wouldn’t love him! Looking forward to Olive, Again!! This was my third Elizabeth Strout book.. I also loved both My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    The best novel I've read since joining Goodreads is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. The second best is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Published in 2008 and winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, this collection of thirteen stories all feature or focus on a retired seventh grade math teacher in the fictional seaside town of Crosby, Maine as she enters the winter of her life, still in possession of the vinegar her former students or fellow townsfolk have tasted for years. Like The best novel I've read since joining Goodreads is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. The second best is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Published in 2008 and winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, this collection of thirteen stories all feature or focus on a retired seventh grade math teacher in the fictional seaside town of Crosby, Maine as she enters the winter of her life, still in possession of the vinegar her former students or fellow townsfolk have tasted for years. Like Steinbeck, Strout's canvas is big and her work is bold, infused with subtle wit and passion, and is undiluted by commercial considerations while in the pursuit of emotional honesty. This novel made me think about my life, particularly my relationship with my Olive-like mother. In the first chapter, simply labeled "Pharmacy," Strout opens us to the life of Henry Kitteridge, a mild-mannered man who likes people, doesn't like to hear from cursing and never misses church or a civic activity. His wife is Olive doesn't like most people, stops attending Sunday service and sees through people to their flaws or frailties while her husband, a pharmacist, is more sympathetic (or naïve, depending on your point of view). Henry hires a bright newlywed named Denise Thibodeau to help around the pharmacy. Denise's husband is also named Henry and Henry Kitteridge's year with the young couple is one of the happiest in his life, if not the happiest. Like most things, it doesn't last. He passes by where the pharmacy used to be. In its place now is a large chain drugstore with huge glass sliding doors, covering the ground where both the old pharmacy and grocery store stood, large enough so that the back parking lot where Henry would linger with Denise by the dumpster at the day's end before getting into their separate cars--all this is now taken over by a store that sells not only drugs, but huge rolls of paper towels and boxes of all sizes of garbage bags. Even plates and mugs can be bought here, spatulas, cat food. The trees off to the side have been cut down to make a parking lot. You get used to things, he thinks, without getting used to things. In the fourth chapter, "A Little Burst," Olive Kitteridge marries off her only child, Christopher, a sensitive boy who grows up to be a podiatrist. Christopher caps a six week romance to a visiting gastroenterologist named Dr. Suzanne Bernstein (Dr. Sue) with a wedding. Olive notes that for all of her knowledge, Dr. Sue doesn't know a thing about flowers, one of Olive's remaining passions. The Kittreidges have built Christopher a house which the couple envisions being filled with grandchildren. But Olive is torn apart by the loss of her son and sequesters herself in their bedroom during the reception. Olive and Christopher's relationship has been strenuous, and she questions whether she's been a good mother. Olive, on the edge of the bed, leans her face into her hands. She can almost not remember the first decade of Christopher's life, although some things she does remember and doesn't want to. She tried teaching him to play the piano and he wouldn't play the notes right. It was how scared he was of her that made her go all wacky. But she loved him! She would like to say this to Suzanne. She would like to say, Listen, Dr. Sue, deep down there is a thing inside me, and sometimes it swells up like the head of a squid and shoots blackness through me. I haven't wanted it to be this way, but so help me, I have loved my son. In the fifth chapter, "Starving," Harmon Newton is also drawn to the vitality of a young couple, a boy named Tim working at the sawmill for the summer and his ragamuffin girlfriend Nina, whom Tim met following Phish on tour. Harmon's house empty save his emotionally distant wife Bonnie, he's indulged in an affair with a young widow named Daisy Foster. Harmon decides to return his relationship with Daisy to its platonic roots, which Daisy accepts with grace and the two remain good friends. The troubled Nina, an anorexic, loses her boyfriend and her lodging and is taken in by Daisy. When Olive Kitteridge drops by to collect for the Salvation Army, she is overpowered by how sick Nina is and joins Harmon and Daisy is trying to see the girl receives treatment. You started to expect things at a certain age. Harmon knew that. You worried about heart attacks, cancer, the cough that turned into a ferocious pneumonia. You could even expect to have a kind of midlife crisis--but there was nothing to explain what he felt was happening to him, that he'd been put into a transparent plastic capsule that rose off the ground and was tossed and blown and shaken so fiercely that could not possibly his way back to the quotidian pleasures of his past life. Desperately, he did not want this. And yet, after that morning at Daisy's, when Nina had cried, and Daisy had gotten on the phone, making arrangements for the parents to come and get her--after that morning, the sight of Bonnie made him feel cold. "Sad," "bleak," "boring," "couldn't stand the main character" are a few of the criticisms I've spotted in other reviews and I suppose if all you focus on is Olive Kitteridge or her darkest, most negative thoughts, you could feel that way about Olive Kitteridge. I found a whole lot more going on beneath the surface here than harshness. Going back to John Steinbeck and why he's my favorite author and creator of my favorite novel, Strout infuses her novel not with self-satisfied language or false hope, but with storytelling, namely, a wonderful amount of wit and passion. For example: Olive had graduated magna cum laude from college. And Henry's mother had actually not liked that. Imagine. Pauline had actually said something about magna cum laude girls being plain and not having much fun ... Well, Olive was not going to spoil this moment thinking of Pauline. She finished up, washed her hands, and looked around as she stuck them under the dryer, thinking how the bathroom was huge, big enough to do surgery in. It was because of people in wheelchairs. Nowadays you got sued if you didn't build something big enough for a wheelchair, but she'd rather somebody just shoot her if it came to that. Or: It has taken Marlene years to stop calling her Mrs. Kitteridge, which is what happens when you have people in school. And of course the opposite is true, which is that Olive continues to see half the town as kids, as she can still see Ed Bonney and Marlene Monroe as young schoolkids, falling in love, walking home day after day from school. When they reached Crossbow Corners, they would stand and talk, and sometimes Olive would see them there as late as five o'clock, because Marlene had to go one way and Ed the other. Olive is a retired seventh grade math teacher; my mother is a retired fifth grade science teacher. Olive is from Maine; my parents are from Texas. These are not soft people. Christopher has had a complicated relationship with his mother and made her cry; I have had the same experiences with my mother. Teachers can be authoritative and do not often accept that people won't do what they've decided would be best for them. I identified with Henry, who could be in love with a tough, intelligent woman like Olive without suffering as she suffers. He irritates his wife incessantly and Olive even considers leaving him at one point, but comes to realize that she has no better friend in the world. This is such a powerful character. What I valued in her was her honesty. This might be considered an affliction, but it is definitely not a weakness. The truth can be ugly. Strout understands that there are people like Henry Kitteridge who need to be helpful, building bridges and looking on the bright side but there are also people like Olive Kitteridge who'd rather be sick with misery at times but see things as they really are. This power has made students wary of her, like they'd beware a witch. Certain kids exhibiting signs of anxiety in her class would likely find Mrs. Kitteridge starting at them and later, confiding to them that if they ever needed to talk to someone they could talk to her. Olive knows. The novel stops short at complete and total satisfaction with two stories I felt most removed from Olive Kitteridge and her world--"Criminal," in which a pyromaniac young woman reaches out of her loneliness to a catalogue company call center operator, and "Ship In a Bottle," in which an 11-year-old watches her neurotic mother and older sister, jilted at the altar, bounce off each other. These chapters struggled to hold my attention but coming late in the book, made me want to spend more time with Olive. I can't fault Strout for making her title character such a strong presence. I could feel Olive Kitteridge changing me while I was reading it. The novel makes me want to call or write my parents more than I do, even if it's to reiterate things I've said and that they already know. It also makes me more conscious than ever of my dark side, how it's important not to be as naïve as Henry, perhaps, nor as acidic in thought as Olive, when negativity sometimes makes it difficult for her to get out of bed. This book makes me appreciate that as often as we hear not to take life for granted, there are consequences for this that can branch you off whatever trail you're on in life and take you to a wilderness you may not like when you get there. Strout explores these pathways with grace, beauty and an absolute ardor for life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    Oh yes, you bet I grabbed my pogo stick! WOW WOW WOW! Damn straight I grabbed my pogo stick! I couldn’t sit still—I needed to hop. I couldn’t help it; this book is a masterpiece! It made my heart sing, my soul smile, my thoughts race. Every single sentence, beauteous. Emotion spilling out between the lines. This Olive, she gets under your skin bigtime. And the writer? I bow to this literary genius! I could just sit here and gush all day long, but gush gets pretty boring. I loved the book; you get Oh yes, you bet I grabbed my pogo stick! WOW WOW WOW! Damn straight I grabbed my pogo stick! I couldn’t sit still—I needed to hop. I couldn’t help it; this book is a masterpiece! It made my heart sing, my soul smile, my thoughts race. Every single sentence, beauteous. Emotion spilling out between the lines. This Olive, she gets under your skin bigtime. And the writer? I bow to this literary genius! I could just sit here and gush all day long, but gush gets pretty boring. I loved the book; you get it. So what makes this book, this author, so incredible? Every one of the characters is just a regular Joe who lives in a small, quiet town in Maine. Strout lets them stay regular (no big heroes or weirdos, really) but at the same time she makes them interesting and intense. Usually if you put me in a small, quiet town with upstanding, “regular” people, it’s yawn city. And while I’m yawning I fantasize buying a pack of Camels and heading to a café in Greenwich Village where everyone is edgy and witty. Here, I had no plans to go anywhere but into the next story. Strout is an expert head examiner. While I’m in there poking around in the heads with her, I end up feeling empathy for Olive and the rest of the characters. Olive is tough to be around at first. She is wound tight. Terse. And she doesn’t miss a trick. She’s cocky in public, yet she is insecure in private. What Strout has done is made me actually LIKE Olive, which is no small feat, given that she seems like a massive bitch. After a while, I saw she could even be funny. It’s hard to describe how magically this works. It’s like you go into a different dimension, where every little thing you observe gets twisted into a feeling. Reading her stories seduced me to the point of addiction. Almost like I was being hypnotized. Everything seemed frivolous but reading, absorbing these stories. I felt like Strout was bestowing a gift, a view of the world that I don’t get to see in real life. Strout takes the little things we do, things either we don’t register we’re doing or things we want to hide under the rug, and enlarges them so they’re in our face, refusing to be ignored. She makes the most mundane event or conversation seem completely fascinating. People in these stories are full of regrets, longing, and sadness, mostly. There are all sorts of uncomfortable predicaments. Characters are full of shoulda woulda couldas. There are people who put their feet in their mouths and then try to take them out. People who wish they hadn’t done this or said that—or who wish they HAD done this or said that. People who are caught off guard and anxious, spilling out revealing or toxic sentences that they would never say aloud if they weren’t so stressed, if they were their normal, calmer, and collected selves, with censors in place. Ah, and the fallout from these outbursts. Public discomfort, shame. Two things that briefly threw me for a loop, but ended up being pluses: First, these are short stories; this is not a novel. There are thirteen stories, and they’re interlinked, almost all relating to Olive. Second, in the first few stories, Olive is not the star. At first I wanted more of her, and sooner. But I quickly realized that I sort of liked that she was being kept hidden for a while. It was cool to get these little glimpses of her from different angles before she made her grand appearance. And it added some suspense—just who is this person named Olive Kitteridge? I can’t wait to see her in full glory! I loved all the stories—not one was mediocre—but I had three favorites: “A Little Burst,” about Olive at her son’s wedding; “A Different Road,” about Olive and her husband at a crime scene; and “Security,” about Olive visiting her son and his family in New York City. All super intense, all just amazing, all knocked my socks off. And my favorite line, which was uttered by a teenage girl sitting on her boyfriend’s lap while waiting for a table at a restaurant: “Stop smelling me,” she said to him. Strout inspires me to write, to find my own Olive Moments and fly with them. Little moments that at first pass by unnoticed or uncelebrated or unexamined, and that make me dig deep inside as I try assiduously to bring them to light. But it goes without saying, my Olive moments won’t be beauteous like Strout’s, but I thank her deeply for the inspiration. She “gets me going,” and that is a truly awesome feeling. All I can say is, read this--now! Strout’s latest book, Olive, Again, will be released in October 2019 and you have to read Olive Kitteridge first (you don’t have to, but it’s nice to know the characters and the lay of the land beforehand). Right now I’m devouring an advance copy of Olive, Again, and it’s phenomenal, too. I feel so lucky to be hanging around in Olive’s town again. Olive Kitteridge has made it to my all-time favorites list, and I’m guessing the next installment will, too. This Strout lady, oh she is amazing. P.S. There’s an excellent 2014 miniseries called Olive Kitteridge, starring Frances McDormand, which I saw when it was released. While I was reading this book, Olive WAS McDormand in my mind; it’s such a perfect match of actress and book character. I absolutely must watch the series again—like maybe tonight!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    “She didn’t like to be alone. Even more, she didn’t like being with people.” Olive Kitterigde is much more than a retired teacher, intransigent mother, exasperating wife or whimsical neighbor. She is the common thread that interweaves the prosaic lives, everyday tragedies and asphyxiating Zeitgeist of the townspeople of Crosby, a small town located in Maine, a place where the lives of others collide with the adjacent frontiers of oneself. Olive Kitteridge is the result of a finely threaded “She didn’t like to be alone. Even more, she didn’t like being with people.” Olive Kitterigde is much more than a retired teacher, intransigent mother, exasperating wife or whimsical neighbor. She is the common thread that interweaves the prosaic lives, everyday tragedies and asphyxiating Zeitgeist of the townspeople of Crosby, a small town located in Maine, a place where the lives of others collide with the adjacent frontiers of oneself. Olive Kitteridge is the result of a finely threaded gossamer of stories told by a cacophony of voices that bring Ollie, as her benevolent husband Henry calls her, to life through polyhedral perspectives of her complex personality, the interactions she has with other characters and the expectations they project on her. And so Olive never achieves a stationary condition, she is incessantly eroded by a patchwork of inner and outer circumstances, direct and tangent relationships and the process of ageing that gradually transforms an archetypal anti-heroine into a conflicted woman, sometimes cruel, sometimes obstinate, but above all, flawed and very humane. “All these lives," she said. "All the stories we never know.” A parade of small miseries, touching greatness and inevitable bewilderment that is ever present in the majority of human actions marches past Olive’s eyes while she weeds her petunias, shaping her self-consciousness and dislocating the core of her existence. Young people seeking death, rebellious teenagers, spiteful offspring, widows who ponder about the meaning of life, elderly couples rejuvenated by the possibility of a new love, marriages that last because of inertia, painful solitudes, unjustified acts of violence, a conglomerate of singular individuals that become iconic paradigms of life in an American town in modern times and the whirlpool of secrets underneath. With highly polished and lucid language, not exempt of irony or biting humor, and making use of the third-person narrator, which provides the precise distance to observe the characters from the vantage point straddling clinical objectivity and psychological empathy, Elizabeth Strout masters the technique of creating a homogeneous atmosphere that brings together an apparently disperse plot delivered by way of unconnected stories. And Olive, that familiar character that equally infuriates and charms the reader, personifies the grandiosity and desolation of daily existence and winks mischievously to the histrionic self that is hidden in each of us. Life is a strange, convoluted business and staying afloat, regardless of the inexorable passage of time that will escort all of us to the same ominous culmination, is a small act of bravery. Strout’s tapestry of intimate details and acute observations reverberates with that truth and at the end of the journey, Olive Kitteridge turns out to be a universal mirror that absorbs the dull grey of existence and exudes the vivid promise of second chances. “Oh, insane, ludicrous, unknowable world! Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on.”

  19. 4 out of 5

    Phrynne

    I recently read My Name Is Lucy Barton and enjoyed Lucy so much I was predisposed to like Olive as well. Olive Kitteridge is of course a Pulitzer prize winner but that can be a good or a bad thing. This is a series of short stories bound together by the character of Olive. She sometimes appears briefly and sometimes features largely in the narratives. As the reader we are obliged to formulate our own opinions of her character from the many ways she is viewed by the other characters in the I recently read My Name Is Lucy Barton and enjoyed Lucy so much I was predisposed to like Olive as well. Olive Kitteridge is of course a Pulitzer prize winner but that can be a good or a bad thing. This is a series of short stories bound together by the character of Olive. She sometimes appears briefly and sometimes features largely in the narratives. As the reader we are obliged to formulate our own opinions of her character from the many ways she is viewed by the other characters in the stories. Of course some of these opinions are not favourable especially those of her own son. For me she was an intriguing, intelligent woman who had little time for the shortcomings of others. She appeared to do her job as a school teacher well and she certainly cared for her students particularly when they were in trouble of any kind. I really felt for her when she started to lose her own way towards the end of the book. This is a slow, quiet book, beautifully written and worth reading with your full attention. I was totally absorbed by the little stories about marriages, families and loss. Definitely worth that Pulitzer and five stars from me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    4 and 1/2 stars We all have known an Olive -- or at least, we think we know her. Strout shows us the parts we don't know, what's behind the prickliness and the 'attitude.' Through fiction, we now have a better understanding of such a person. It's a rare writer who can embody a character so well. And the minor characters too -- they are all living, breathing people. More than one of these 'minor' characters are so well-drawn and intriguing that I wouldn't have minded knowing more about them. Not all 4 and 1/2 stars We all have known an Olive -- or at least, we think we know her. Strout shows us the parts we don't know, what's behind the prickliness and the 'attitude.' Through fiction, we now have a better understanding of such a person. It's a rare writer who can embody a character so well. And the minor characters too -- they are all living, breathing people. More than one of these 'minor' characters are so well-drawn and intriguing that I wouldn't have minded knowing more about them. Not all the stories are about Olive, though she 'appears' in all of them, if only peripherally. In three of the stories (and they might be my favorites, though it's hard to pick a favorite) other women (one 'older,' the others young) are the main characters, and Olive is just a thought in their heads. In two of the heads, she is a scary presence, but the older sister of the one who is afraid of her remembers something Olive told her when she was Olive's student and it gives her the courage to change her life. In the first story (about Olive's husband) I marked a simile that I liked: ... she had a darkness that seemed to stand beside her like an acquaintance that would not go away. After finishing the last story, I reread the phrase. I found it an interesting contrast with the last story, which is full of sunlit imagery. 4 and 1/2 stars, because I felt the ending of one otherwise strong story was too gimmicky.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout Olive Kitteridge (2008) is a novel by American author Elizabeth Strout. It presents a portrait of the title character and a number of recurring characters in the coastal town of Crosby, Maine. It takes the form of 13 short stories that are interrelated but discontinuous in terms of narrative. It won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award. Stories: Pharmacy; Incoming Tide; The Piano Player; A Little Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout Olive Kitteridge (2008) is a novel by American author Elizabeth Strout. It presents a portrait of the title character and a number of recurring characters in the coastal town of Crosby, Maine. It takes the form of 13 short stories that are interrelated but discontinuous in terms of narrative. It won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award. Stories: Pharmacy; Incoming Tide; The Piano Player; A Little Burst; Starving; A Different Road; Winter Concert; Tulips; Basket of Trips; Ship in a Bottle; Security; Criminal; and River. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم فوریه سال 2011 میلادی عنوان: آلیو کیتریج؛ نویسنده: الیزابت استروت (استراوت)؛ مترجم: احسان شفیعی زرگر؛ سما قرایی؛ تهران، قطره، 1389؛ در 394 ص؛ شابک: 9786001191596؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، گیسا، 1394؛ در 426 ص؛ شابک: 9786006885575موضوع: داستانهای کوتاه از نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 21 م آلیو کیتریج مجموعه سیزده داستان کوتاه به هم پیوسته است. این داستانها در شهر ساحلی کوچکی در ایالت مًین در امریکا میگذرند، و حلقه ی اتصال آنها شخصیت معلم بازنشسته ای، به نام: آلیو کیتریج است. برخی از منتقدان معتقدند این کتاب را میتوان رمانی در قالب داستانهای کوتاه دانست؛ و شاید تاکید بر اینکه مجموعه ای از داستانهای کوتاه است، تا حدی گمراه کننده باشد. برخی نیز آن را فاقد ویژگیهای رمان میدانند. در شناسنامه کتاب، آنجا که معمولاً ذکر میشود: «رمان»، یا «مجموعه داستان»، به کلمه ی: «داستان» اکتفا شده است. به هر حال این داستانها کاملاً مستقل هستند، هرچند میتوان آنها را به صورت فصلهای یک رمان خیال کرد. استراوت در گفتگویی در این باره گفته است: نوشتن «آلیو کیتریج» با این فرم، تصمیمی بود که در طول زمان شکل گرفت. نخستین داستان آلیو را سالها پیش نوشتم، و همان زمان فهمیدم، این شخصیت روزی کتابی از آن خود خواهد داشت. آن موقع نمیدانستم این کتاب چه فرمی پیدا میکند، ولی پس از آنکه صحنه های بیشتری را نوشتم، احساس کردم آلیو چنان حضور نیرومندی دارد که بهتر است داستان او اساساً اپیزودی باشد. از طرفی به زاویه دید هم خیلی علاقه دارم، و دیدن آلیو از نگاه دیگران، به خوانشگر امکان میداد تصویر کاملتری از او به دست بیاورد. پایان نقل. آلیو کیتریج: معلم ریاضی بازنشسته بدخلقی ست، که با داروساز آرامی به نام: هنری ازدواج کرده؛ شخصیتی که از همسرش محبوبتر است و خوانشگر تا پایان کتاب با او بیشتر از همه شخصیتها آشنا میشود. آلیو و هنری یک فرزند دارند؛ پسری به نام: کریستوفر، که وقتی از دانشگاه فارغ التحصیل میشود و برمیگردد، نزدیک خانه خودشان برایش خانه ای میسازند. امیدوارند کریستوفر با زنی از اهالی همان شهر ازدواج کند و نوه دار شوند. ولی زنی که کریستوفر با او ازدواج میکند، تشویقش میکند به سن فرانسیسکو رخت بکشند. کمی بعد که همسر کریستوفر از او جدا میشود، آلیو با خوشحالی فکر میکند پسرش حالا به خانه برمیگردد. ولی او ترجیح میدهد در کالیفرنیا بماند، و دل مادرش را بشکند. آلیو و هنری گاهی در کانون کنش داستانی هستند، و گاه در حاشیه داستان میچرخند. ناشکیبایی، پشیمانی و حتی نفرت در زندگیشان ریشه دوانده است. استراوت با موشکافی و ظرافت مسائل زندگی آنها را به خواننده منتقل میکند؛ هنری سرش را بلند کرد و گفت: «میدونی، آلی» چشمهایش خسته بود و پوست دورشان قرمز شده بود، «در تمام این سالهایی که از ازدواجمان میگذره، در تمام این سالها فکر نمیکنم حتی یک بار هم معذرت خواسته باشی. برای هیچ چیز.» آلیو حسابی سرخ شد. احساس میکرد پوست صورتش زیر آفتاب میسوزد. گفت: «خب، معذرت، معذرت، معذرت.» و عینک آفتابی اش را که گذاشته بود بالای سرش، برداشت و دوباره به چشم زد. پرسید: «میخوای چی بگی؟ از چی دلخوری؟ اصلاً این حرفا واسه چیه؟ عذر خواهی؟ خب، من معذرت میخوام. معذرت میخوام که همچین زن مزخرفی هستم.». آلیو زنی ست با جثه درشت، مستعد حالتهای ناگهانی، و خشم آلود است، غالباً در قضاوت عجله میکند و عصبانی ست، و آزردگیهای عمیقش را به سرعت بر زبان میآورد. دوست داشتنی نیست. با کلماتی مثل: «خنگ»، و «ابله»، «دست و پا چلفتی» دیگران را فراری میدهد. پسرش کریستوفر، تلاش میکند از حضور سلطه جوی او بگریزد، و دچار افسردگی است. یکی از زنهای مسن شهر میگوید: «در رفتار آلیو مطلقاً جایی برای عذرخواهی وجود نداشت.». هرچه داستانها پیش میرود، تصویر آلیو پیچیده تر میشود. او میتواند سرً پسرش فریاد بزند و به او دشنام بدهد، ولی در عین حال دوستش دارد، آنقدر که از تحملش بیرون است. شوهرش مرد مهربانی است، و آلیو او را هم دوست دارد، گو اینکه ابراز علاقه برایش آسان نیست. همان قدر که ناگهان از کوره درمیرود، یکباره میزند زیر خنده، و دلش حتی برای غریبه ها هم میسوزد. الیزابت استراوت شخصیت آلیو کیتریج را در همه داستان ها، حتی شده خیلی کوتاه، به صحنه میآورد، و خوانشگر رفته رفته متوجه میشود این قطعات مستقل و به دقت پرداخت شده روی هم چرخه روایتی را شکل میدهند، که چیزی نیست جز داستان زندگی آلیو کیتریج. استراوت میگوید: «شخصیت آلیو برای من از همه شخصیتهای دیگر کتاب جذابتر است. وحشی، پیچیده، بامحبت و بی رحم است. در واقع کمی از هر کدام ما در او هست.»؛ پایان نقل از روزنامه اعتماد البته با ویرایش. ا. شربیانی

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    “People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it.” I absolutely loved this novel compromised of short stories. Taken from your normal everyday situations, the lush phrases and varied character dimensions created an emotional and heartfelt journey of small-town people experiencing small changes in life that often have the biggest impact. At times, I wanted to eat the words off the page. An appearance from Olive Kitteridge in each short story is what makes “People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it.” I absolutely loved this novel compromised of short stories. Taken from your normal everyday situations, the lush phrases and varied character dimensions created an emotional and heartfelt journey of small-town people experiencing small changes in life that often have the biggest impact. At times, I wanted to eat the words off the page. An appearance from Olive Kitteridge in each short story is what makes for such an enjoyable read. Her character orbits around her strong personality and unparalleled voice. Each story begs the spirit to rekindle emotions that make us appreciate life, although most stories are sad, melancholy, or starkly realistic. “…that one of those things getting older was knowing that so many moments weren’t just moments, they were gifts.” It is deeply expressive to the value of life and how the beauty of the world changes as we do. Respectfully, I do feel like you must be a certain age or experienced certain things in order to truly appreciate this piece of literature to its full capacity. I recommend this piece of literature for those who enjoy contemporary American fiction, short stories, and psychological literary fiction. -Here is the wonderful Will Byrnes review, he has the link to the HBO production site for the miniseries and other goodies on Olive: Will's review -And, the amazing Peter's review who describes Olive so perfectly: Peter's review

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andy Marr

    This was a beautiful book, with a wonderful ending. However, if you're reading the Kindle version of the book, it's worth noting that the book actually ends with the story 'River' - the chapter that follows it, 'Burgess Boys', is, in fact, offered as an introduction to Strout's 2013 novel, 'The Burgess Boys', though the publishers make no effort to make this distinction clear.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    Olive Kitteridge is opinionated, domineering, judgemental, interfering and needy. Her husband Henry is gentle, timid and kind. Their life in a small town in Maine is complex, sad, and seemingly incomplete. Olive spends most of her time bitter and sad. Olive is the woman whose cold, offensive manner is an embarassment, Henry is the man whose expression always seems to be carrying an apology about his wife’s behavior. Their son spends his life hoping for an apology from at least one of his Olive Kitteridge is opinionated, domineering, judgemental, interfering and needy. Her husband Henry is gentle, timid and kind. Their life in a small town in Maine is complex, sad, and seemingly incomplete. Olive spends most of her time bitter and sad. Olive is the woman whose cold, offensive manner is an embarassment, Henry is the man whose expression always seems to be carrying an apology about his wife’s behavior. Their son spends his life hoping for an apology from at least one of his parents. The various personalities in the thirteen chapters of this book fade in comparison to Olive Kitteridge. Olive’s life has not turned out the way she had hoped, and it would seem that this is the one thing that almost everyone from Crosby, Maine has in common. While the level of despair varies from chapter to chapter, person to person, with Olive present, it’s never really completely out of the picture. The characters are somehow disarmingly charming as various adversities befall them, their misfortunes reach out and grab hold and pull another Crosby-dweller into the story for a peek into their life. Through Strout’s beautifully written intermingled stories she explores the characters of Crosby, Maine, exposing their emotions with depth and sharing every moment of sadness, loneliness, anger and disappointment as if they were their shadow.

  25. 4 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    WOW! How appropriate that Olive should be large: she is larger than life, human but more so. She's angrier, more unrepentant, and far less tolerant, of herself as much as of others, but at the same time she's also more feeling, more compassionate, more sensitive than the average member of the human race. She's raw, as if an insulating layer had been stripped away, leaving her to feel and see more than most. The magical thing is that you feel and see too, you develop a kind of preternatural WOW! How appropriate that Olive should be large: she is larger than life, human but more so. She's angrier, more unrepentant, and far less tolerant, of herself as much as of others, but at the same time she's also more feeling, more compassionate, more sensitive than the average member of the human race. She's raw, as if an insulating layer had been stripped away, leaving her to feel and see more than most. The magical thing is that you feel and see too, you develop a kind of preternatural sensitivity. Schiller's idea of an aesthetic education must have dreamt of this book. To read it makes you more human too. Is it sad when Olive has to visit a much depleted Henry in a nursing home? No, no, no. It's life. That's how life is. It ends some time. "We all know this stuff is coming. Not many are lucky enough to just drop dead in their sleep." All the people here are struggling, pushing through, taking knocks and then standing up again to carry on. That's all there is. And life is worthwhile when there are books like this to read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    *TUDOR^QUEEN*

    DNF @ 60% I purchased this book on a kindle sale because I had been granted an arc of the follow-up Olive, Again by NetGalley, and also had won a hard copy in the Goodreads Giveaway. I thought it would be great to familiarize myself with Olive before reading the second book. Now I'm not sure I even want to read the second book. I saw that the original book had won the Pulitzer prize and it had gotten great reviews, so I thought I was settling into perhaps a 5 star read. Well, I'm grudgingly DNF @ 60% I purchased this book on a kindle sale because I had been granted an arc of the follow-up Olive, Again by NetGalley, and also had won a hard copy in the Goodreads Giveaway. I thought it would be great to familiarize myself with Olive before reading the second book. Now I'm not sure I even want to read the second book. I saw that the original book had won the Pulitzer prize and it had gotten great reviews, so I thought I was settling into perhaps a 5 star read. Well, I'm grudgingly giving this 3 stars. First of all, I must confess that I dislike books comprised of short stories. However, having read in other reviews that the character of Olive Kitteridge was a constant character in each story, I thought that was an original gimmick. As I started the book, I even became fond of this character. I admired her common sense approach to life and understood how that can often create disdain from other people. I was enjoying the book when the beginning stories centered on Olive's life with her husband. I even enjoyed it when it focused on the wedding of her son, Christopher. Then when the stories jumped to totally different people (realizing that Olive would eventually pop up in them in some fashion), I became disoriented. It started to really aggravate me, that I had to reset my focus onto yet more new characters, when I had been enjoying just reading about the Kitteridges. By 60% I asked myself why I was wasting my valuable reading time being miserable. I had stumbled yet again onto a host of new characters that I could no longer entertain, much less keep track of. I hate to DNF a book in which I've invested a couple of hundred pages, but my expectations of anything redemptive prompted me to just pull the plug. I'm leaning towards just clicking the "Will Not Give Feedback" on the Olive, Again arc since it will be yet another collection of short stories, although the rating on Goodreads for this is higher than the original. Time to cut my losses and move on to hopefully a more compatible read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Meredith Holley

    If I could use one word to describe this book, it would probably be “boring.” “Awkward” is a close runner-up. I think Elizabeth Strout must be the type of person who is less of the entertainment school of writing and more of the vitamins school of writing. But, I am left wondering what nutritional value I got out of this. Mostly, it just seemed like a bunch of people sitting around being petty, judging other people’s Issues, and thinking about cheating on each other. Like, whoa, deep. The If I could use one word to describe this book, it would probably be “boring.” “Awkward” is a close runner-up. I think Elizabeth Strout must be the type of person who is less of the entertainment school of writing and more of the vitamins school of writing. But, I am left wondering what nutritional value I got out of this. Mostly, it just seemed like a bunch of people sitting around being petty, judging other people’s Issues, and thinking about cheating on each other. Like, whoa, deep. The structure of the book is a bunch of different short stories that all somehow reference this one bitchy lady, Olive Kitteridge. It’s not a bad structure if there was something you wanted to know about the person, but in itself the structure is more of a gimmick than anything. Alone, it is neither good nor bad, but it’s easy to get trapped in a gimmick and refuse to edit because you’re married to it. I feel like that’s what happened here. A few of the better stories only incidentally referenced Olive Kitteridge, and I think they could have made better (by which I mean more entertaining and containing a plot) overall stories than Olive’s. Maybe I am just not interested in her. She is the mean math teacher, controlling mother, self-absorbed wife, busybody neighbor. None of the ways this played out were particularly appalling, but they were not endearing either. She started out meh and stayed meh throughout. I guess there is some reference in her character to the frigidness of New England towns, and I feel equally indifferent about that. But, okay, I did like this recurrent theme about not being afraid of our own hunger. The book probably explores desire, and the stories are probably all studies about human desire and how it expresses itself in different ways. I don’t know, maybe all books are about that in some ways, and I'd rather read Wuthering Heights if I'm going for desire. This had alcoholism, anorexia, suicide, LOADS of adultery (contemplation), runaways, food allergies, robbery, murder (contemplation), and probably other topics like that. And then it ends (I guess spoiler alert, but it’s not really like there is a plot to this book, so I don’t think it really spoils anything) with a sort of huu-uuh in a story about some people in their seventies thinking about having sex with each other and how they were assholes to their kids. So, I don’t know. I’m going to give this two stars because it’s so boring. Even the robbery is boring. I didn't hate it as much as it sounds like I did, but it would be a lie if I said I enjoyed it. There are all of these bloated similes, too, which are just painful. I can’t think of an example now, but something like, “She gazed into her cup of coffee and then noticed on the counter crumbs of a muffin LIKE GRAINS OF THE SANDS OF TIME-IME-IME-IME.” What. Ever. I’m only exaggerating a little. Everything was like the ocean waves ebbing and flowing, etc. I listened to this on audio, and it was also meh. Now that I’m looking at the cover, it seems oddly apt. When I first looked at it, I was like, what the fuck is that? And it seemed kind of interesting and complex. Then I realized it was just a boring leaf. Then I gazed at my coffee and noticed on the table the leaves of the book pages like the leaves of the book of time-ime-ime-ime. This business about the trappings of time was probably not literally in the book BUT IT COULD HAVE BEEN. When she would come back to the hunger thing, though, I liked that. It seems like a good point – not to be afraid of our own hunger. I don’t really know what it means, and I question whether Strout does either, but it sounds good.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Whenever I read a Pulitzer-prize-winning book (or nominee), I'm tempted to look for the chutzpah. For there is no way a book wins this honorable prize without doing something that has not been done before, or without taking something that has been done before and doing it better. This chutzpah is usually in the form, the style, or the story arc. With this novel, it is the way in which short stories are interwoven using one subject: the idiosyncratic, Olive Kitteridge. Never mind that Olive is Whenever I read a Pulitzer-prize-winning book (or nominee), I'm tempted to look for the chutzpah. For there is no way a book wins this honorable prize without doing something that has not been done before, or without taking something that has been done before and doing it better. This chutzpah is usually in the form, the style, or the story arc. With this novel, it is the way in which short stories are interwoven using one subject: the idiosyncratic, Olive Kitteridge. Never mind that Olive is not the alluring one, for Olive is not really your likable personality; neither is she that much interesting. Her husband, Henry, scores more likeability points than she does in the beginning. Olive is a force to be reckoned with though. She is such an integral part of the discussion on life that Strout has introduced here. This is why following Olive is necessary because she is the lens through which life is not too often viewed in literature. She is a towering presence, a character who is discrepant and irascible. These characters living in the coastal town of Maine bring us different elements of the human condition. They are real characters, the neighbors next door to you, your best friend or spouse, your family. This is one great quality of the book, these characters who are real people: Henry stares out at the bay, at the skinny spruce trees along the edge of the cove and it seems beautiful to him, God's magnificence there in the quiet stateliness of the coastline and the slightly rocking water. These stories glide. With each story, you are placed within a character's mind, you sense, for instance, his or her heartbreak and lost love: You couldn't make yourself stop feeling a certain way, no matter what the other person did. You had to just wait. Eventually the feeling went away because others came along. Or sometimes it didn't go away but got squeezed into something tiny, and hung like a piece of tinsel in the back of your mind. It is the way in which the story moves. Any other less-crafted book could have been a hundred pages longer. Not this one, because Strout weaves in and out of time deftly, transitioning through characters' lives with ease, giving the story grace. And it only takes her a few sentences to do so. The artful brevity that makes short short story collections work, is what makes this novel work. Things are slow when necessary, slow enough for you to once again capture a character's inner thoughts at a moment when some discovery that could damage a lifelong partnership, has been made: In the darkness and the silence of the car, she felt some knowledge pass between them. And it had been sitting there in church with them, too, like a child pressed between them in the pew, this thing, this presence, that had made its way into their evening. The more I read, the more I realized that this was a book deeply human; a book showcasing ordinary lives to show us how much we need to learn about ourselves, about each other. Love is a central theme here. So is grief, for all over the town, quiet grieving is taking place. There is also loneliness, forgiveness, acceptance--the importance of partnership. And what is special is how each character embodies the themes, how each character is somehow teaching a life lesson: She remembered what hope was, and this was it. That inner churning that moves you forward, plows you through life the way the boats below plowed the shiny water, the way the plane was plowing forward to a place new, and where she was needed.

  29. 4 out of 5

    William2

    Exquisite. A beautiful balance of images. All the senses deftly deployed in the description of action. At the same time, a nonlinear storyline, jumping about over a span perhaps of 25 years. Yet the book is a mousse of a confection, its execution so light, so assured. Moreover, it is a novel of stories. I can only remember this being done so well one other time in my broad reading experience, that was in Cynthia Ozick’s The Puttermesser Papers. (See my review.) Great mastery of pattern and Exquisite. A beautiful balance of images. All the senses deftly deployed in the description of action. At the same time, a nonlinear storyline, jumping about over a span perhaps of 25 years. Yet the book is a mousse of a confection, its execution so light, so assured. Moreover, it is a novel of stories. I can only remember this being done so well one other time in my broad reading experience, that was in Cynthia Ozick’s The Puttermesser Papers. (See my review.) Great mastery of pattern and theme. No subject is ever nailed too directly on the nose. Strout has this wonderful way of sliding obliquely into her subject matter, a technique which merits closer study. Another surprising aspect of the book is what she chooses not to pursue. There’s a line in Martin Amis’s London Fields in which the narrator, who is also a writer, says “one-hundred decisions on every page.” Strout’s writing is so engaging that even her omissions leave a resonance of expunged information, if one may put it that way. (Hemingway wrote fascinatingly about the effects of deliberate omission in his fiction; see his Selected Letters: 1917-1961.) Please read Olive Kitteridge. Then stream Lisa Cholodenko’s 4 part HBO mini-series with Frances McDormand as Olive.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    A collection of stories that revolve around the main character, but draw on everyone in a small town in Maine. Beautifully written. I found myself highlighting a wide variety of lines because they were so poignant.

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