Top positive review
Enjoy Olive Again!
Reviewed in the United States on June 22, 2019
First of all, you do not have to have read Pulitzer winning, “Olive Kitterage”, or seen the Emmy winning HBO series starring Frances McDormand, to thoroughly enjoy Elizabeth Strout’s follow up, “Olive, Again”, though I predict that you will want to.
The success of the book and HBO series rests on Strout’s perfectly imperfect character, Olive. She is entirely unique and readers have a variety of reactions to her, mostly contradictory because she is. She is hard-nosed somewhat stereo-typically a cold north easterner, judgmental and blunt. She is also compassionate, sarcastically witty, and loyal. I’ve always thought that it would be difficult to be friends with Olive, but worth it.
“Olive, Again”, like its predecessor (and like the two “Lucy Barton” novels Strout has penned in the interim), is a collection of inter-related stories about the denizens of Crosby, Maine, particularly in relation to Olive Kitterage. We meet some familiar characters, but also a few new ones. There is a disturbing story of a young girl who cleans houses and a strange relationship that follows. I was especially touched by the continuation of a story from the first book that relates a poignant conversation between the sister of a murderer and her parent’s lawyer as she returns to Crosby and her memories of growing up there. Evidence of Olive growing as an individual is in a piece where she visits a former pupil who has cancer. I loved these conversations so much because Olive reveals a lot about her marriages. Plus, it’s quite funny! Happily, one section brings us up to date on the Burgess boys - another of Strout's novels!
I didn’t think of this eleven years ago when I first “met” Olive, but this re-acquaintance has made wonder if Olive is on the “autism spectrum”. Is she ignoring social cues, or is she missing them? Is her bluntness and thoughtless disregard for “niceties” because she doesn’t understand the need for them? Several times she does show empathy and concern for others’ feelings, but these episodes seem to come as a shock to even her. In any case, Strout beautifully “grows” Olive in this wonderful new novel. I knew I needed more Olive and I am thankful that Strout did, too!
It’s a fast read even though I tried to slow down and savor it! Strout is such a wonderful writer, Frances McDormand is such a wonderful actress, let’s hope another HBO series is in the works!