In Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout has written interconnecting short stories that give us insight into the town of Crosby, Maine, and the people who make their homes and lives there. Olive is a retired math teacher. She is married to Henry, the local pharmacist, and they have one son, Christopher.
Each story delves into the life of one of the town's residents. Each has some connection to Olive, although sometimes it is tangential. We read of marriages, divorces, death, affairs, theft, children who bring joy and children who grow up and are not part of their parent's lives.
One of the book's themes is the changing nature of love throughout the years. Many of the characters portrayed have long term marriages and Strout writes of how these relationships change over the years. First blush love becomes a stronger relationship as the years go by. Sometimes the relationship falters and the spouses are tempted to look elsewhere for fulfillment. Yet many remain married and often find a renewed love in their later years.
Yet, Strout also writes of the sadness of love. Great love relationships usually mean one participant is left behind when the other dies. How does one regroup and go on, facing the lonliness that is often the result of old age? She also writes of the parental-child relationship and how hard it is to get that fine balance of raising an independant child right. Tip on one side of the balance and the child is left dependant and unable to function; tip on the other side and they are so independant that they often move away to live totally separate lives. This is another grief that many face as they age.
Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize, and readers of the book won't be surprised. This book draws the reader into contemplation of how lives work out, and the importance of love and family. This book is recommended for all readers.