ARC Book Review: Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge #2) by Elizabeth Strout

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Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge #2) by Elizabeth Strout

ISBN: 9780812996548 (Hardcover)

304 pages

Published on 10/15/19 by Random House

Genre: Literary Fiction / Contemporary Fiction

Rating: ★★★✩✩

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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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Book Review: Olive Kitteridge (Olive Kitteridge #1) by Elizabeth Strout

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Olive Kitteridge (Olive Kitteridge #1) by Elizabeth Strout

ISBN: 9780812971835 (Paperback)

Published: March 25, 2008 by Random House

270 pages

Pulitzer Prize Winner (2009)

Genre: Literary Fiction

Rating: ★★★★✩

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition – its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life – sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

Trigger warnings: Cheating, suicidal thoughts, and an eating disorder.

Review:

“She remembered what hope was, and this was it. That inner churning that moves you forward, plows you through life the way the boats below plowed the shiny water, the way the plane was plowing forward to a place new, and where she was needed. She had been asked to be part of her son’s life.” 

Story | This is a bunch of stories mashed into one book. There were some that I absolutely loved and felt sympathy for, and there were others that I didn’t care about. This is a character-driven novel from front to back. It’s difficult to describe what this is even about, other than how influential Olive is to all of these mismatched people.

I mainly enjoyed learning about the relationship between Olive and her son. She acts like a tough woman, but deep down she just wants to be a good mom. She wants to make him feel like he’s loved, but tough love is all she knows how to give.

I’ll just say this: If you are going into it just for the story, then it might come off as a bit disappointing. I wouldn’t recommend it for people who don’t enjoy character studies.

Characters | The characters in Olive Kitteridge are discernible and witty while living mundane lives. They constantly display raw, unfiltered emotions. I have personally never read a book that focused so much on the characters and the influence they all have on one another. They prove to the reader that it’s a small world out there, and we are part of it for such a short amount of time that any opportunity to influence someone else is worth the time and energy.

If anyone exceeds at their job as an influencer, it’s Olive Kitteridge. She refuses to see eye-to-eye with children, but by golly she can give advice like the dickens. Is she difficult to deal with sometimes? Most definitely. Can she get a little condescending? Yes, but that doesn’t take away from all of the wonderful that is deep down inside of her.

Henry, Olive’s husband, does take a lot of crap from Olive. He just wants to spend time with her, but she would rather talk about how much she does for him and their son, Christopher. Regardless, I wasn’t fond of Henry. He treated marriage as some sort of symbol. There was a specific scene where he asked her to go to church with him. When she refuses, this is what he thinks in his head:

“Going without her seemed a public exposure of familial failure.”

I don’t attend church—different strokes for different folks—so I don’t see what marriage has to do with anything involving church. I think judging someone for not going is trivial. The relationship between an individual and God is just between those two. This is just my opinion, and I won’t go into further detail. Long story short; I didn’t like Henry.

There are a lot of other characters in this book that it’s almost impossible to talk about each one. There are a lot of different lessons to learn from each one. Stories about families, friends, and old lovers come together to form this crafted piece of literature.

Writing | There is no doubt that Elizabeth Strout is a fantastic writer. She has a way of creating characters that I’m sure no one else can quite compare to. They are all so deeply flawed, which allows different personality types to read the book and connect with at least one character, or one part of a character. The descriptions are short and sweet. She definitely doesn’t over-do it. I can see why it won the Pulitzer Prize, but it just didn’t hit that level.

Overall | I honestly didn’t enjoy this one as much as My Name is Lucy Barton, but I had fun with it. The concept is different from anything else I’ve read. The ending was really what saved it from being a measly three-star read. The beginning fell flat, and I ended up putting it down for a bit. I knew that if I didn’t finish it in one go, I just wouldn’t finish it. The message behind the book is much appreciated by this avid reader, but not quite a new favorite.


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November 2019 TBR

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It’s time for that monthly TBR! This month, I want to focus on my NetGalley checklist. I’ve been putting them off for no reason, and I feel terrible.

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I’m 200 and something pages into Middlegame by Seanan McGuire, but there’s an 80% chance I will DNF it. I love her writing, but I’m not enjoying the story. Super disappointed! 😦

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I want to knock out Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout so I can read Olive, Again. This one is on my NetGalley checklist that I need to get to ASAP. I have it checked out from the library right now.

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The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman. This isn’t from NetGalley, but it’s one of my most anticipated reads. Can we also talk about how beautiful the cover is on this one?

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Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane. I have this on NetGalley, and at this point I own it. I think the least I can do is read it and review it.

This TBR is ambitious for me. Working full-time always exhausts me, even after working the same job for over two years. You’d think I’d be used to it. I’m going to actually carve out time everyday for reading and see where that gets me. Wish me luck!

What are you going to read this month?


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July 2019 Reading Wrap Up!

Hello, friends! I have a pretty decent July wrap up for ya. I haven’t had much time to do anything lately. July was basically a miracle. I’ve been in a bit of a life rut as well, and I’ve mentally clocked out. I hope I can get back on track and make August another good reading month. I get to take a week off work at the end of the month, so fingers crossed I get a lot done then. Alright, continue to the wrap up! ↓

Total Books Read: 17

Total Pages Read: ~4,566 (page count according to Goodreads.)

ARC: The Last Book Partyby Karen Dukess – ⭐⭐⭐

ARC: Buried (Agent Sayer Altair #2)by Ellison Cooper – ⭐⭐⭐

ARC: A Divided Mindby M. Billiter – ⭐⭐⭐

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

ARC: The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

ARC: The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang – ⭐⭐⭐

Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Animal Farm by George Orwell – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

And Every Morning the Walk Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne – ⭐⭐⭐

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong – ⭐⭐

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ *RTC

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

– Have you read any of these? Thoughts? Let me know down in the comments. –


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Book Review: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

193 pages

Published January 12, 2016 by Random House

ISBN: 9781400067695

Genre: Contemporary/Literary Fiction

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS: 

Lucy Barton is in the hospital for what was supposed to be a very simple procedure. Complications arise, and she is stuck in the hospital longer than anticipated. One day she wakes up and her mother is in her hospital room. Lucy and her mother do not have the strongest bond, but to Lucy the need for that bond is strong. They discuss their past and the people that were involved over the next few days. Lucy is a mother to two beautiful daughters and a wife to a man named William. Her marriage is very mediocre and she is aspiring to be a writer. The discussions with her mother help her to release all of the tension in every aspect of her life. She can finally come to terms with all of it.

REVIEW:

Characters | Lucy is a fantastic, humble, unsure main character. She understands that she isn’t perfect and neither is her life. She doesn’t have a close bond with her parents, especially her mother, and her marriage isn’t doing so hot. She’s not happy, but she doesn’t quite know what to do about it. She recalls all of her memories, and she thinks about all of the people she has come in contact with along the way. She delves into what made them who they were. She shares what she thinks, but she also explains to the reader that she may not have recalled it correctly. She knows she can’t speak for everyone else, and Strout really gives the reader that sense of instability.

Lucy’s mother was a tough character to connect with. It is from Lucy’s point of view, so I’m sure that’s the reason why. Sometimes you felt like she was an amazing woman, and other times you wanted to just kick her out of the story. You want to tell Lucy that it’ll be okay. You’ll figure it out. There is a lot more to life than what you have experienced.

Story | Lucy and her family were very poor. Kids would tease her, and material items, or the lack thereof, were always brought up. The clothes she wore were never good enough. They ate molasses on bread almost every night. Her father worked on farm equipment. She has a brother and sister who are very odd. There was so much interesting backstory to the characters, and it added this new height to the story overall. It lifted it up from being just a mother and daughter bonding in a hospital. One part of this novel almost made me cry. Not having a close bond with my mother is probably my worst nightmare. I can only sympathize with Lucy. It’s heartbreaking!

Critique: The ending was underwhelming. I wanted something more, and I cannot pinpoint what that is. I would give this a 4.5 rating, but I have given up the half star ratings. It’s just easier for everyone.

Writing | Strout’s writing is simple, smart, and honest. I can understand why she is a Pulitzer Prize-Winning author. I could probably read everything she has written, and everything she will write from here on out. Here are some quotes that I really enjoyed:

“This must be the way most of us maneuver through the world, half knowing, half not, visited by memories that can’t possibly be true. But when I see others walking with confidence down the sidewalk, as though they are free completely from terror, I realize I don’t know how others are. So much of life seems speculation.”

“One can be ready to give up the children one always wanted, one can be ready to withstand remarks about one’s past, or one’s clothes, but then-a tiny remark and the soul deflates and says: Oh.”

“I have learned this: A person gets tired. The mind or the soul or whatever word we have for whatever is not just the body gets tired, and this, I have decided, is-usually, mostly-nature helping us. I was getting tired.”

“This is a story about a mother who loves her daughter. Imperfectly. Because we all love imperfectly. But if you find yourself protecting anyone as you write this piece, remember this: You’re not doing it right.” 

I do really recommend this book. Strout’s writing is commendable. Her thoughts and her words hit you a certain way that is indescribable. Please just give it a go!


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