04 December 2015

Olive Kitteridge: a reflection on perceptions

I finally finished Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge yesterday while I was waiting for Puck in the after-school car line.

It took me much longer to finish it than I expected, but was by no means due to the story. Our autumn has been chaotic, and I wasn't able to make time to read as I expected I would be able to.

But I kept reading when I could, and as we settled into a better routine after the wedding, I was able to find much more time. Like in the after-school car line.

I'm really glad I did, too.

As I started Olive Kitteridge, I didn't really know what to expect. It was recommended to me by a writer because of how I described the coffee house book; they thought it would be helpful in writing and revising my draft. (It has been.) But once I really got into it, I was much more pleasantly surprised than I thought I would be.

The biggest surprise to me was in the revelations about the titular character through each chapter. As I read, I thought I knew who Olive was, and then, later, in one chapter, everything I thought I knew about her shifted, and I saw her in a completely different way. That revelation impacted my reading of the rest of the book, and left me in a very different mood than I expected I would be in by the end.

Sorry for the vagueness of this reflection. I really don't want to give anything away because you should read the book yourself. Truly.

Since I finished Olive Kitteridge, it's been sitting on my heart. I'm torn between wanting to keep my experience of reading it just where it is because of the surprise, and wanting to reread it in a few months to see how my reading changes now that I know what I know about Olive.

I had a wonderful literature professor tell me that "literature rewards rereading." I believe wholeheartedly that Strout's novel falls into that category. I believe that if I read it again in a few months, it will be like an entirely different book. I'll see things I didn't see before, and Olive will, indeed, be a different person. Maybe I will be, too. And maybe that's the point.

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