Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge #2) by Elizabeth Strout
ISBN: 9780812996548 (Hardcover)
Published on 10/15/19 by Random House
Genre: Literary Fiction / Contemporary Fiction
Thank you to Random House & NetGalley for the digital copy in exchange for an honest review!
*Any quote(s) used in the review are from the finished copy.*
Trigger Warnings: Homophobia, suicide, miscarriage, cheating, physical abuse, cancer, and possible pedophilia (the situation involved an older man, a young girl, and nudity.)
Story | Olive Kitteridge is at it again with her famous “Oh, Godfrey” and uneasiness around children. You learn about her hostility toward baby showers. That’s just a few things I love about Olive Kitteridge, her real and raw thought processes. She doesn’t always let it slip out of her mouth, but I’m glad we get to explore her inner thoughts and emotions toward certain situations. I find myself relating and agreeing with her the majority of the time.
Olive, Again focuses a lot on Olive’s relationship with Jack Kennison. It’s a very rocky relationship, but it’s not surprising considering the type of person Olive is. She wasn’t very nice to Henry either.
The individual storylines in this are fervent and disheartening, but I think the first book kept me more entertained. Olive, Again just kept me in a continuous state of heartbreak. I usually give high ratings to books that can get that kind of emotion out of me, but this just became too much. It just didn’t have the same vibe as the last book.
There is a lot of insight into Olive’s feelings on different topics—a ton of back and forth with herself. As she gets older, she digs deeper into her own conscience—her sad, depressing, suffering conscience.
“She realized it was as though she had—all her life—four big wheels beneath her, without even knowing it, of course, and now they were, all four of them, wobbling and about to come off. She did not know who she was, or what would happen to her.”
This book mainly focuses on the characters, so there isn’t a lot to talk about when it comes to the story. I will admit that it was quite nice to be back in Crosby, Maine.
Characters | There is a whole slew of new characters mixed in with some oldies.
Christopher, Olive’s son, visits her with his wife, Annabelle, and three kids. Unfortunately, tensions become very high. Chris never gives his mother the time of day. He doesn’t accept Olive for who she is. All she wants is to be present in his life, but it’s almost impossible that they all get along.
“But she saw behind her closed eyes the house, and inside her was a shiver that went through her bones. The house where she had raised her son—never, ever realizing that she herself had been raising a motherless child, now a long, long way from home.”
Kayley Callaghan – Eighth grader, father died two years ago, and cleaned house for Mrs. Ringrose. While there she would unbutton her blouse for Mr. Ringrose and he would give her cash in return. She didn’t feel like she could tell anyone about it. She enjoyed it at first, but it all abruptly came to end when Mrs. Ringrose said she didn’t need her anymore.
This short story surprised me and depressed me. I honestly didn’t expect this from the author. It was interesting to see Kayley’s thoughts on everything as an eighth grader. Way too young to be going through this. It made me sick.
Cindy Coombs – Used to work as a librarian at the local library, but now she has cancer. Olive talks to her about her feelings about death.
“You know, Cindy, if you should be dying, if you do die, the truth is—we’re all just a few steps behind you. Twenty minutes behind you, and that’s the truth.”
You learn that Olive—tough, fearless, grumpy Olive—is also afraid to die.
You definitely don’t have to read the first book to learn about these characters.
“I do not have a clue who I have been. Truthfully, I do not understand a thing.”
Writing | Strout’s writing is still wonderful. She is able to make it flow so well and it’s all just a bunch of short stories. My plan is to read everything by this author. I have completed three novels by her so far, and whether I found this one all that interesting or not, I keep thinking about her writing style. There is something about it that I love so much. The simplicity of the sentence structure while discussing such melancholic topics. It’s a true talent that not a lot of people can manage.
Overall | Would I recommend it? Yeah! Just because I wasn’t totally fond of it doesn’t mean you won’t absolutely love it. It’s worth loving. Strout does preforms some incredible magic with her Olive Kitteridge duology. So many characters and emotions. You’ll fly through them. I’m almost sad there isn’t another one. You don’t often find yourself reading a book with such a raw character who is still fighting with themselves on the inside. Go pick it up! You can blame it on how beautiful the cover is.
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