🐞 🐞 🐞
October 15, 2019
If you haven’t read Olive Kitteridge, the book that earned Elizabeth Strout a Pulitzer, go read it. Like, now. Immediately. It’s one of my favorite books of all time, possibly THE favorite. And you’re going to want to read it before you read the sequel, Olive, Again. Strout says she wasn’t really looking to write a sequel to Olive Kitteridge, and especially not over a decade later. But Olive came to her, demanding to be heard, and, apparently, Strout says, the sequel wrote itself.
Olive, Again picks up exactly where the original book left off (which is why you should read the first book before reading this one). I don’t want to give anything away, but Jack is still in the picture, and, never fear, Olive is just as curmudgeonly (and lovable) as ever. The book takes readers through the next phase of Olive’s life—her relationships with romantic partners, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and, oh yes, sometimes perfect strangers. We also see how the lives of familiar characters from the first book have played out, too.
The writing is beautiful. Poetic and quiet and lovely. Strout is as insightful as ever. And how can you not miss and adore Olive?!
And yet, I have to be honest…I hated reading this book! I already knew that I had been carrying around The Feeling of reading Olive Kitteridge for a decade, that feeling of reading THE PERFECT NOVEL. But what came as a surprise to me was the realization that what I was actually carrying around was the very last chapter of Olive Kitteridge. Olive lying in bed with Jack—and the knowledge, the feeling, the hope, that through all the garbage, we can still end up okay.
But—and I’m not trying to sound melodramatic here—this book destroyed that good feeling for me. Just, like, obliterated it. Boom. Gone. Kaput.
Olive, Again is so deeply, deeply sad. Which isn’t a surprise, not really. All of Strout’s books are like that—gorgeous and dismal in equal measure. But this one felt hopeless to me. And that hopelessness dismantled my good experience from the first book. Which is so, so frustrating. Honestly, I wish Strout had never written this book. It’s beautiful, and I know everyone else will love it. By all means, read it! But I can’t help feeling that Strout has ruined Olive for me. I didn’t want Olive’s next chapter. I wanted her just as she was, frozen in time forever, hovering in that space of Down But Not Out.
Harsh words, I know. Especially for such a lovely book as this one. But there it is. I’m releasing my inner Olive, and I don’t care who knows it.
Thank you to Random House and Amazon Vine for the ARC!