Olive, Again

Ten years back, Elizabeth Strout was declared winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her signature collection, Olive Kitteridge stories. Now she returns with a bang, and her comeback looks even better. 

Elizabeth Strout, book after book, never seems to stop amazing her readers. Be it her, Amy, Isabelle, or be it Anything is Possible, she captures the intricate relationship between characters and all nuances of pain, heartache, regrets, grace, and struggling humanity amid all these, very aptly. 

Olive, Again – A Summary

Based on the people of Crosby Maine, the new book starts where the last one has ended. Her titular character, after husband Henry’s death, gets into friendship with Harvard professor Jack Kennison. Jack is the same person who was once ridiculed by her and Henry for being arrogant. Her opinion, however, changes when she finds Jack in a collapsed state on a riverside road. Olive slowly learns that Jack has become lonely too, after his wife’s death, and is now being alienated by his only child.

The opening of Olive Again portrays the connection between Olive and Jack. After an upsetting three weeks, Jack goes to Portland to have a drink where he reminds himself of all his mishaps and feels that he truly deserves what he is facing now. He feels sorry for his irresponsible behavior towards his wife and a lesbian daughter. He remembers the harassment suit filed against him, which forced him to retire early. 

An image of Olive Kitteridge Book.

And now, at the age of 74, he asks himself how anyone can live an honest life. He is miffed with himself when he replays some of life’s miserable memories like one where he was pulled over by a traffic cop for over speeding. Here Strout is at her best depicting the loneliness, power play of the rich with class divides, and snobbery overtones.  

Slowly, Olive starts getting irritated by the behavior of what she calls “that horrible old rich flub-dub of a man.” She does attend a baby shower, which she thinks is utterly stupid but ends up being a hero there. Out of eagerness, she informs Christopher about her heroism, her estranged son, who neglects her achievement.    

Olive has so many shades in her. She is blunt yet kind. She makes it a point to visit an abandoned woman who is leftover by all her relatives and friend and who will die soon. But she never discloses her fights with Jack ever. 

Olive, Again investigates the emotions of a human being, the tolerance, and behavioral changes. It reminds very poignantly that empathy is an integral part of love and helps to keep one’s life away from unhappiness.  

You don’t necessarily need to read Olive Kitteridge to understand Olive, Again. However, reading the former will add some depth to your understanding, and you will be able to witness some lively colors while reading. 

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