In some ways this will be the easiest book response I’ve ever written. Quite simply, Olive, Again is all the same wonderfulness that was Olive Kitteridge. If you loved the first Olive; you will adore the second.
I don’t want to say too much so as not to spoil your own reading experience. Except that Strout has once again employed the use of short stories to tell us about Olive. Most of the stories are from Olive’s perspective, but there are some from her family and various other town people. Olive has a cameo appearance in these particular chapters as we get to see her through the eyes of others. In one memorable scene, Olive is also given a chance to see herself through the eyes of someone else.
One of the special delights, for me, was suddenly realising that we were getting a brief glimpse into lives of the Burgess boys and Amy & Isabelle years after the events that Strout wrote about in their books. These intersections felt perfectly natural and reinforced the idea that all our small stories are interconnected and woven together in ways we can never dream of or fully comprehend.
Olive has mellowed somewhat with age and she has finally learnt the value of moderation – she no longer has to say out loud every single thing that pops into her head.
Strout also explores the ageing process in unsentimental terms. Not only with Olive but the other characters that flit through the story.
However since the words are still failing me at the moment, let me list some of the comments that others have written about Olive, Again on Goodreads.
Jacqui – Sometimes a book is just so perfect that it feels wrong somehow to break it down, as if by doing so one destroys the magic or fails to capture what makes it so special.
Jaline – The world within and the world without.
larger than life
wrenching emotional honesty
indignities of ageing
estrangements and secrecy
tour de force
To finish I will leave you with the words of Strout herself on why she felt compelled to write a sequel for Olive.
The New Yorker | Elizabeth Strout on Returning to Olive Kitteridge | Deborah Treisman | July 29, 2019.
I never intended to return to Olive Kitteridge. I really thought I was done with her, and she with me. But a few years ago I was in a European city, alone for a weekend, and I went to a café, and she just showed up. That’s all I can say. She showed up with a force, the way she did the very first time, and I could not ignore her. This time, she was nosing her car into the marina, and I saw it so clearly—felt her so clearly—that I thought, Well, I should go with this.
Strout’s ‘guilty reading pleasure’ is War and Peace.
Her greatest influences are William Trevor and Alice Munro.
She has not yet read Moby-Dick.
Won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for Olive Kitteridge.
All love was to be taken seriously.