Set in the small town of Crosby, Maine, Olive Kitteridge is a collection of short stories that occasionally feature and always reference, at least in some small way, the titular main character. Olive is practical, blunt and opinionated but not introspective regarding her own feelings. She often flouts social niceties and seems incapable of apologizing . Despite this, she is not unlikeable- she is very human, and Strout gives the reader enough backstory and detail on Olive so that we can see her emotions even if she can’t (or won’t) put them into words. Olive is also so human in her failures that you can’t help but like her, even as you can see how she’d rub some people the wrong way.
These stories are lovely and feel so perfectly formed- always just the right words, never too long or too short, a master class in character study. Approximately half of the stories focus on Olive, a teacher, her pharmacist husband Henry and their son Michael, a podiatrist, as all three of them grow older. The remaining stories feature other townsfolk that encounter or have previously encountered Olive in some meaningful way- former students, couples they know socially, the piano player at the local watering hole, etc. What I enjoyed most about these short stories was the understanding and empathy Strout has for Olive and all of her characters- they feel loved and seen, with all their flaws but also all their strengths and beauty. I really enjoyed this, highly enjoyed it and would recommend it without hesitation.