Olive Kitteridge: The Novel/Short Story Collection that Always Inspires Mixed Feelings

I watched the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge last weekend on video. Or I did once I settled down and came back into the living room once the opening that showed Olive walking in the woods was over. Once I saw the gun, I fled. Other scenes later on were equally difficult.

As events in the story unfolded and resolved themselves, i was pleased that the producers stuck as closely as possible to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Elizabeth Strout–actually an interwoven, previously published short story collection about the people in a small town in Maine. Olive appears in each story, either as a critical character or a minor one. Strout’s roots are in Maine, and I believe that all her books are set there.

Frances McDormand was the perfect choice for the lead, and the rest of the cast was equally strong. I thought the landscape pretty. The overall mood, however, matches how I feel about the book–extremely somber and painful, with terrible struggles. That’s life, I know. Even though there was some light to balance the darkness, I didn’t feel there was enough. I have read the book twice, and I probably will not do so again. I read it once on my own after reading a newspaper review. The second time, I read it for book group.

Overall, I like Olive. For some strange reason, I liked that she was a math teacher. But she can be very prickly even as she is extremely caring. It’s easy to see that her life experiences made her the way she is. Some of her attitudes are generational. And family life can be very tough and messy. You don’t always know the right things to say and do.

My favorite story from both readings is “Incoming Tide,” because ultimately, the message there is hope. Here, as with the stories where she is caring for her husband Henry after his stroke also show the different facets of her personality.

Hopefully, each of us has an effect on the people around us, and in the wider world. Some of them are big; others, not so much. Maybe sometimes you don’t realize how you are memorable to others. Certainly Olive has no idea that she has inspired several students that she isn’t close to.

Before anyone reading this thinks Maine is depressing, here’s proof that it is not. I used to follow another writer’s blog. Olivia Tejeda spent childhood summers in Maine with her family. She wrote about it here. I kept this entry for a long time just because I love the pictures.

A friend of mine also enjoys Maine vacations, and has been back several times. She has graciously allowed me to share some pictures from a trip taken in the fall of 2010. Aren’t they gorgeous?



This one reminds me of a painting one of my former co-workers completed. It hung in his office for several years.





This picture was the local library, We both agreed that it would be a great place to work. I like the one of the boat, below:






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Filed under Fiction, Film, Hope, journeys, Libraries, Marriage and family, Short Stories

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