FICTION

Olive, Again

Random. Oct. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9780812996548. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812996555. F
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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.]

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