- Book: Olive, Again
- Location: United States (USA)
- Author: Elizabeth Strout
The name of the fictional town of Crosby is a tribute to the author’s room mate in college, Ellen Crosby. The first “Olive” novel was simply titled “Olive Kitteridge” and is described as a ‘novel in stories‘. Olive, Again is in similar format. Olive, the eponymous lady of the title, is the leitmotif throughout the book, some chapters are dedicated to her post retirement life, sharing snippets and insights as she deals with the ageing process. Other stories are about the people in the small town and Olive will make a cameo appearance. She has some connection to all the characters featured and it is a little like picking up a magnifying glass, and with the aid of the deft hand of the author, the inner workings of the characters and lives are prised open like a nut for the reader to appreciate.
This is not a linear story per se, it is just beautiful writing and storytelling. Olive almost seems to be on the autism spectrum because at times her interactions can be quite curt, she says what she thinks without really giving thought to how her words are received. She really struggles to filter her thoughts before she voices her opinion. Yet, she can also be reflective and can try so hard. She tries to re-connect with her son, who comes to stay with her for a few days, yet she doesn’t know really how to dive in and mend the fractured relationship. When she discovers, left behind, a small garment she had knitted for one her grandchildren she feels ‘terror’. She corrects how others speak. She is just who she is, plucky and direct and that rare fictional character, yes, an older woman! Love her or hate her, she is a memorable character. There is quiet humour, too and it is at times quite moving.
What really makes this novel work is the beautiful and stylish writing. Emotions are created with select, pertinent words brought together in a creative and fluid way. The author’s prose is just wonderful.