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Olive Kitteridge

by

Olive Kitteridge Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. Do you like Olive Kitteridge as a person?

2. Have you ever met anyone like Olive Kitteridge, and if so, what similarities do you see between that person and Olive?

3. How would you say Olive changed as a person during the course of the book?

4. Discuss the theme of suicide. Which characters are most affected (or fascinated) by the idea of killing themselves?

5. What freedoms do the residents of Crosby, Maine, experience in contrast with those who flee the town for bigger “ponds” (California, New York)? Does anyone feel trapped in Crosby, and if so, who? What outlets for escape are available to them?

6. Why does Henry tolerate Olive as much as he does, catering to her, agreeing with her, staying even-keeled when she rants and raves? Is there anyone that you tolerate despite their sometimes overbearing behavior? If so, why?

7. How does Kevin (in “Incoming Tide”) typify a child craving his fathers approval? Are his behaviors and mannerisms any way like those of Christopher Kitteridge? Do you think Olive reminds Kevin more of his mother or of his father?

8. In “A Little Burst,” why do you think Olive is so keen on having a positive relationship with Suzanne, whom she obviously dislikes? How is this a reflection of how she treats other people in town?

9. Does it seem fitting to you that Olive would not respond while others ridiculed her body and her choice of clothing at Christopher and Suzannes wedding?

10. How do you think Olive perceives boundaries and possessiveness, especially in regard to relationships?

11. Elizabeth Strout writes, “The appetites of the body were private battles” (“Starving,” page 89). In what ways is this true? Are there “appetites” that could be described as battles waged in public? Which ones, and why?

12. Why does Nina elicit such a strong reaction from Olive in “Starving”? What does Olive notice that moves her to tears in public? Why did witnessing this scene turn Harmon away from Bonnie?

13. In “A Different Road,” Strout writes about Olive and Henry: “No, they would never get over that night because they had said things that altered how they saw each other” (p. 124). What is it that Olive and Henry say to each other while being held hostage in the hospital bathroom that has this effect? Have you experienced a moment like this in one of your close relationships?

14. In “Tulips” and in “Basket of Trips,” Olive visits people in difficult circumstances (Henry in the convalescent home, and Marlene Bonney at her husbands funeral) in hopes that “in the presence of someone elses sorrow, a tiny crack of light would somehow come through her own dark encasement” (p. 172). In what ways do the tragedies of others shine light on Olives trials with Christophers departure and Henrys illness? How do those experiences change Olives interactions with others? Is she more compassionate or more indifferent? Is she more approachable or more guarded? Is she more hopeful or more pessimistic?

15. In “Ship in a Bottle,” Julie is jilted by her fiancé, Bruce, on her wedding day. Julies mother, Anita, furious at Bruces betrayal, shoots at him soon after. Julie quotes Olive Kitteridge as having told her seventh-grade class, “Dont be scared of your hunger. If youre scared of your hunger, youll just be one more ninny like everyone else” (p. 195). What do you think Olive means by this phrase? How does Olives life reflect this idea? Who is afraid of his or her hunger in these stories?

16. In “Security,” do you get the impression that Olive likes Ann, Christophers new wife? Why does she excuse Anns smoking and drinking while pregnant with Christophers first child (and Henrys first grandchild)? Why does she seem so accepting initially, and what makes her less so as the story goes on?

17. Was Christopher justified in his fight with Olive in “Security”? Did he kick her out, or did she voluntarily leave? Do you think he and Ann are cruel to Olive?

18. Do you think Olive is really oblivious to how others see her- especially Christopher? Do you think she found Christophers accusations in “Security” shocking or just unexpected?

19. Whats happened to Rebecca at the end of “Criminal”? Where do you think she goes, and why do you think she feels compelled to go? Do you think shes satisfied with her life with David? What do you think are the reasons she cant hold down a job?

20. What elements of Olives personality are revealed in her relationship with Jack Kennison in “River”? How does their interaction reflect changes in her perspective on her son? On the way she treated Henry? On the way she sees the world?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 24 comments:

minniewake , October 21, 2014 (view all comments by minniewake )

In a universe so bent toward youth it is more like relief aside from pleasure to read literature that speaks to my experience as a middle age woman. Thank you Elizabeth Strout for writing these stories which are hilarious, ferocious, gut punching, and bare bone honest.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Julie Graham, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by Julie Graham)
Wonderful story with real-life characters in a real-life setting. Small scale, beautifully rendered.
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donnapetel, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by donnapetel)
This book is a life-changer. Each short story holds a different facet of the title character, Olive Kitteridge. In some of the stories, Olive is the focus. In other stories she is in the background, just walking through the landscape of the story. While I started out hating her, by the end of the book I both understood and loved her. I think we lose sight of the lives we touch by our very existence. This book is a beautiful reminder of how connected we truly are.
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(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 24 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780812971835
Author:
Strout, Elizabeth
Publisher:
Random House Trade
Subject:
General
Subject:
Maine
Subject:
City and town life -- Maine.
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Literary
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20080931
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.01x5.22x.67 in. .47 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » Award Winners
Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Literature
Featured Titles » Pulitzer Prize Winners
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Featured Titles
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Fantasy » Epic
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Fantasy » Short Stories

Olive Kitteridge Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812971835 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Set on the coast of Maine, this fantastic Pulitzer Prize winner (2009) is a terrific character study.  Olive is an irascible, crabby old lady who is difficult to like.  Yet, as her life, marriage, and story play out, her character changes in ways that are wholly believable.  This novel runs the gamut of human emotion and delicately exposes the secret inner workings of the human condition.  Beautifully written, Olive Kitteridge is a book I didn't much expect to like — but how wrong I was.

"Review" by , "Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition — its conflicts, tragedies, and joys. Strout constructs her stories with rich irony and moments of genuine surprise and intense emotion."
"Review" by , "A perfectly balanced portrait of the human condition, encompassing plenty of anger, cruelty and loss without ever losing sight of the equally powerful presences of tenderness, shared pursuits and lifelong loyalty."
"Review" by , "With the deft, piercing shorthand that is her short storytelling trademark, [Strout] takes readers below the surface of deceptive small-town ordinariness to expose the human condition in all its suffering and sadness."
"Review" by , "Perceptive, deeply empathetic...Olive is the axis around which these thirteen complex, relentlessly human narratives spin themselves into Elizabeth Strout's unforgettable novel in stories."
"Review" by , "Fiction lovers, remember this name: Olive Kitteridge. . . . You'll never forget her. . . . [Elizabeth Strout] constructs her stories with rich irony and moments of genuine surprise and intense emotion. . . . Glorious, powerful stuff."
"Review" by , "Funny, wicked and remorseful, Mrs. Kitteridge is a compelling life force, a red-blooded original. When shes not onstage, we look forward to her return. The book is a page-turner because of her."
"Review" by , "Olive Kitteridge still lingers in memory like a treasured photograph."
"Review" by , "Rarely does a story collection pack such a gutsy emotional punch."
"Review" by , "Strout animates the ordinary with astonishing force....[She] makes us experience not only the terrors of change but also the terrifying hope that change can bring: she plunges us into these churning waters and we come up gasping for air."
"Synopsis" by , 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. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition — its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

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