Elizabeth Strout | Fiction 2019
Crosby, Maine is a small bucolic town right on the ocean. Olive, Again tells the story of many of the people who live there. If you read Olive Kitteridge, you will recognize the style. Olive, Again is actually the sequel.
As in the earlier book, there is no plot as such, but there are 13 stories of people in Crosby. Olive Kitteridge is the thread that ties these stories together. She is central in some chapters, an important character in others, and makes only a fleeting cameo appearance in some.
Caustic, witty, sad, kind, insightful, mean, opinionated, gleeful, loving, discounting, sometimes a deep listener, sometimes she doesn’t listen at all; we follow Olive as she ages from 73 to 86 in this book. Her edges have softened from the original Olive Kitteridge.
Strout’s tales are fascinating. The characters who live in Crosby Maine are not all that quirky or original, and yet they are each totally fascinating. We have Andrea, a former Poet Laureate of the US; a Somalian woman, Hamila, who works as a home health worker; Kayley, a teenager who cleans houses and allows an old man to see her breasts; a couple who have lived together for 42 years, but for the last 35 have used yellow duct tape on the floor to divide her space from his space and who talk with each other by making comments to their dog; a guest at a baby shower who goes into labor herself during the shower and has her baby in Olive’s car before the ambulance arrives. And of course we have Olive’s second husband Jack who gets a speeding ticket for driving his sorts car too fast and cannot understand why his daughter is lesbian. There is also a dominatrix and a few people who have gone “dopey-dope.”
As Olive and her connections in Crosby have aged, there are also quite a few widows and widowers, including Olive herself. Their stories left me feeling hopeful. They live normal, if lonely, lives.
This is a wonderful book. Sprout is a gifted and brilliant writer who won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge and has written five other well-regarded novels. Yes, definitely read Olive, Again.