This book apparently won a ton of awards, and people online rave about Olive. I actually thought she was kind of a dick, and the book would have been much better without her.
“But here they were, and Olive pictured two slices of Swiss cheese pressed together, such holes they brought to this union—what pieces life took out of you. Her eyes were closed, and throughout her tired self swept waves of gratitude—and regret. She pictured the sunny room, the sun-washed wall, the bayberry outside. It baffled her, the world. She did not want to leave it yet.”
So Olive Kitteridge the character appears in each of the various stories that comprise Olive Kitteridge the book — sometimes as a small mention, usually as a main character. She taught this character in school, lives next door to this one, married to this one, etc. Each of the little stories ends up very loosely linked, with Olive’s son and husband making up the other main people mentioned. I loved Olive’s husband Henry, and the first story, in which we see his relationship with the lovely young woman who works in his store as it evolves over the years was definitely my favorite. Some of the other stories had a cuteness or sweetness to them that I enjoyed as well. Strout definitely has a delicate way with words and some of the descriptions in the novel are lovely.
Unfortunately, Olive is unlikable, rude — even cruel at times, and the small nice things she does throughout the novel, or the little injustices she suffers, did nothing to improve my opinion. She was a terrible character to spend 270 pages reading about, especially when Strout briefly touched on so many others that I wanted to know more about.