#BookReview Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Olive, AgainAbout the Book

Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory yet deeply loveable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes – sometimes welcome, sometimes not – in her own existence and in those around her.

Olive adjusts to her new life with her second husband, challenges her estranged son and his family to accept him, experiences loss and loneliness, witnesses the triumphs and heartbreaks of her friends and neighbours in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine – and, finally, opens herself to new lessons about life.

Format: ebook (304 pages)                  Publisher: Viking
Publication date: 31st October 2019 Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Short Stories

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Find Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge, #2) on Goodreads

My Review

Olive, Again follows the same structure as Olive Kitteridge, a series of linked vignettes featuring the inhabitants of Crosby, Maine, in which Olive herself features to varying degrees.  Sometimes she has merely a walk-on part, sometimes she plays a more significant role in a story and occasionally she’s the main focus but in every case there’s a meaning attached to her appearance that may only become evident to the reader later.  Events in the book unfold over a number of years, during which the reader witnesses major events in Olive’s life.

Those who’ve read Olive Kitteridge will be pleased to know that Olive is her same outspoken, honest, slightly irascible self.  She’s someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, as exemplified by her reaction to the baby shower she attends – and which of us hasn’t been at a social event where we’ve longed to have the courage to say the sort of things Olive does! But she also has an uncanny instinct for what others need, demonstrated in -for me – one of the most moving stories, ‘February Light’, where Olive is the only person who seems to know the right thing to say to a dying woman.  As one character remarks, “Olive, you’re the kind of person people want to talk to.”

Olive, Again sees Olive in self-reflective mood as well, wondering if there are things in her life she could have done better, especially in regard to her relationship with her son, Christopher, and his family.   Relationships between parents and children is one of the recurring themes of the book which also explores ageing and how to face the challenges life brings. Along with those mentioned above, some of my other favourite stories were ‘Helped’, ‘The Poet’ and the final story, ‘Friend’.

Olive, Again is by turns tender, funny, heartbreaking and life-affirming.  It demonstrates the observational skills for which the author has become rightly renowned.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Viking via NetGalley

In three words: Moving, acutely-observed, assured

Try something similar: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (read my review here)

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Elizabeth StroutAbout the Author

Elizabeth Strout was born in Portland, Maine, and grew up in small towns in Maine and New Hampshire.  From a young age she was drawn to writing things down, keeping notebooks that recorded the quotidian details of her days.  She was also drawn to books, and spent hours of her youth in the local library lingering among the stacks of fiction.  During the summer months of her childhood she played outdoors, either with her brother, or, more often, alone, and this is where she developed her deep and abiding love of the physical world: the seaweed covered rocks along the coast of Maine, and the woods of New Hampshire with its hidden wildflowers.

During her adolescent years, Strout continued writing avidly, having conceived of herself as a writer from early on.  She read biographies of writers, and was already studying – on her own – the way American writers, in particular, told their stories.  Poetry was something she read and memorized; by the age of sixteen was sending out stories to magazines.  Her first story was published when she was twenty-six.

Strout attended Bates College, graduating with a degree in English in 1977.  Two years later, she went to Syracuse University College of Law, where she received a law degree along with a Certificate in Gerontology.  She worked briefly for Legal Services, before moving to New York City, where she became an adjunct in the English Department of Borough of Manhattan Community College.  By this time she was publishing more stories in literary magazines and Redbook and Seventeen.  Juggling the needs that came with raising a family and her teaching schedule, she found a few hours each day to work on her writing. (Bio: author website, photo credit: Goodreads author page)

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3 thoughts on “#BookReview Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

    1. I don’t think it’s essential but some of the characters from the first reappear in this one and you would be missing out on Olive’s earlier life. I think reading the first book would be worthwhile.


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