Reviews for Olive, again (oprah's book club) : A novel

Publishers Weekly
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As direct, funny, sad, and human as its heroine, Strout’s welcome follow-up to Olive Kitteridge portrays the cantankerous retired math teacher in old age. The novel, set in small-town coastal Crosby, Maine, unfolds like its predecessor through 13 linked stories. “Arrested” begins just after the first novel ends, with 74-year-old widower Jack Kennison wooing 73-year-old Olive. “Motherless Child” follows the family visit when Olive tells her son she plans to marry Jack. In “Labor,” Olive awkwardly admires gifts at a baby shower, then efficiently delivers another guest’s baby. Olive also offers characteristic brusque empathy to a grateful cancer patient in “Light,” and, in “Heart,” to her own two home nurses—one a Trump supporter, one the daughter of a Somali refugee. “Helped” brings pathos to the narrative, “The End of the Civil War Days” humor, “The Poet” self-recognition. Jim Burgess of Strout’s The Burgess Boys comes to Crosby to visit brother Bob (“Exiles”). Olive, in her 80s, living in assisted care, develops a touching friendship with fellow resident Isabelle from Amy and Isabelle (“Friend”). Strout’s stories form a cohesive novel, both sequel and culmination, that captures, with humor, compassion, and embarrassing detail, aging, loss, loneliness, and love. Strout again demonstrates her gift for zeroing in on ordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people to highlight their extraordinary resilience. (Oct.)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The thorny matriarch of Crosby, Maine, makes a welcome return.As in Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge (2008, etc.), the formidable title character is always a presence but not always onstage in these 13 interconnected tales of loneliness, loss, and love in its many flawed incarnations. Olive has not become any easier to like since her husband, Henry, died two years ago; "stupid" is a favorite adjective, and "phooey to you" a frequent term of dismissal. But over the course of about a decade we see Olive struggling, in her flinty way, to become "oh, just a tinytinybit better as a person." Her second marriage, to Jack Kennison, helps. "I like you, Olive," he says. "I'm not sure why, really. But I do." Readers will feel the same, as she brusquely comforts a former student with cancer in "Light" and commiserates with the grieving daughter-in-law she has never much liked in "Motherless Child." Yet that story ends with Olive's desolate conclusion that she is largely responsible for her fraught relationship with her son: "She herself had [raised] a motherless child." Parents are estranged from children, husbands from wives, siblings from each other in this keening portrait of a world in which each of us is fundamentally alone and never truly knows even those we love the most. This is not the whole story, Strout demonstrates with her customary empathy and richness of detail. "You must have been a very good mother," Olive's doctor says after observing Christopher in devoted attendance at the hospital after she has a heart attack, and the daughter of an alcoholic mother and dismissive, abusive father finds a nurturing substitute in her parents' lawyer in "Helped." The beauty of the natural world provides a sustaining counterpoint to charged human interactions in which "there were so many things that could not be said." There's no simple truth about human existence, Strout reminds us, only wonderful, painful complexity. "Well, that's life," Olive says. "Nothing you can do about it."Beautifully written and alive with compassion, at times almost unbearably poignant. A thrilling book in every way. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal
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Olive Kitteridge is back, crustier than ever and just as unapologetic as she was when she first appeared 11 years ago. In this new collection of linked stories about the residents of Crosby, ME, Olive is never far from wielding her influence, even if she's offstage. A retired schoolteacher with very few filters from brain to mouth, Olive once again has opinions about everyone and everything—baby shower games, her husbands, motherhood, adult diapers, the ravages of aging. She drops her cutting observations with matter-of-fact, laser-like precision, sparing no one, then follows up with lovely, whiplash-inducing moments of empathy toward her neighbors, her distant son, and even, endearingly, herself. Caught up in scenes of great hilarity (a backseat childbirth) and bewildering grief, Olive may offer blunt honesty that defies societal norms, but her clarity is refreshing and never cruel. VERDICT Strout, who won the Pulitzer for Olive Kitteridge (2008), wrote that Olive forced her way back into Strout's consciousness long after the author thought she was done with her. Olive demanded Strout write these new stories. Of course Olive did that. It's so…Olive. Thank goodness Olive prevailed. Exquisite. [See Prepub Alert, 4/8/19.]—Beth Andersen, formerly with Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Has Olive mellowed? She is still irascible, she still speaks her mind with unflinching honesty, but age and the death of her husband, Henry, have worn away some of her edge: ""I feel like I've become, oh, just a tiny tiny bit better as a person,"" she says at one point. Strout's latest work like Olive Kitteridge (2008), a collection of stories set in the coastal town of Crosby, Maine takes Olive from her early seventies into her eighties, through a surprising marriage to Jack Kennison, a second widowhood, a heart attack, a kind of rapprochement with son Christopher, and, finally, a move into Maple Tree Apartments, ""that place for old people."" And also like Olive Kitteridge, in several of the stories, Olive steps aside while other characters, some bussed in from Strout's novels, take center stage and lend their own voices and perspectives. Love, loss, regret, the complexities of marriage, the passing of time, and the astonishing beauty of the natural world are abiding themes, along with ""the essential loneliness of people"" and the choices they make ""to keep themselves from that gaping darkness."" Unmissable, especially for readers who loved Olive Kitteridge. HIGH DEMAND BACKSTORY: Strout's first outing with Olive was a Pulitzer Prize-winner, an Emmy-winning HBO series, and a book club favorite; expect much reader curiosity for her return to her most beloved curmudgeon.--Mary Ellen Quinn Copyright 2010 Booklist