Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Olive Kitteridge

If you haven’t read this book, you really must.

Put it on your “books to read” list (am I the only one that keeps one of these?)

Request it from the library – like I did.

You will not regret it. Not for a minute.

It is the kind of book that wraps you in familiarity from the start.

Where characters are so far from the one-dimensional figures of some popular novels,

But these people live and breathe beyond the pages of the book,

Have lives beyond what has been told,

Hold secrets and stories deeper than one can imagine.

Each story, standing on its own, is a powerful reflection of the human condition.

Of self doubt and self-consciousness, questioning and grief.

But together, they wove an intimate look at the makings of a small town

And the people that keep its heart beating.

It was the kind of book where I always kept a pencil handy –

A pencil and my journal to write down the passages that speak to me…

So here is my offering, my carrot strung in front of your nose,

to lure you into picking up Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout for yourself…

go on, you wont regret it.

Excerpts (quoted by chapter/story)

from "Pharmacy" -

Retired now, he still wakes early and remembers how mornings used to be his favorite, as though the world were his secret, tires rumbling softly beneath him and the light emerging through the early fog.

...and there would be for Henry Kitteridge a flash of incredible frenzy as though in the act of loving his wife he was joined with all men loving the world of women, who contained the dark, mossy secret of the earth deep within them.

She is making applesauce from the season's last apples, and the smell reaches him briefly - sweet, familiar, it tugs at some ancient longing - before he goes out the door in his tweed jacket and tie.

You get used to things, he thinks, without getting used to things.

"it changed me," she wrote, "as experiences do."

from "Incoming Tide" -

A yearning stirred in him that was not sexual but a kind of reaching toward her simplicity of form.

He felt the stain of sadness make its way from her to him.

And yet oddly, the fact of its unhappiness seemed to have a hold on him with the sweetness of a remembered love affair.

The inside of his head began to feel as choppy as the surf before him. Don't go, his mind said to Mrs. Kitteridge. Don't go.

...and then he knew what he'd felt had been hope. Hope was a cancer inside him. He didn't want it; he did not want it. He could not bear these shoots of tender green hope springing up within him any longer.

He would not let her go ...oh, insane, ludicrous, unknowable world! Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on.

from "The Piano Player" -

...fingering her black skirt, felt she had figured something out too late, and that must be the way of life, to get something figured out when it was too late.

from "Starving" -

In a moment they both stood, and climbed the narrow staircase to the little room where sunlight shone through the window, making a red glass vase on the bureau glow.

She looked very different from the woman he had married, though he didn't mind that especially, it only bewildered him to think how a person could change.

They lay there in the dark; what gripped him from his bowels on up was the horrible, blank knowledge that she meant this. Still, nobody can accept losses right away ...she said, couldn't he understand - it wasn't him, it was her. She was just done.

Walking back to his car at the marina on those mornings, he was sometimes surprised to feel that the earth was altered, the crisp air a nice thing to move through, the rustle of the oak leaves like a murmuring friend.

The appetites of the body were private battles.

It seemed to be warning him in its heavy pounding that it would not be able to continue like this, only the young, he thought, could withstand the vigors of love.

...that lives get knit together like bones, and fractures might not heal.

There is no telling anyone anything when they have been infected this way.

from "A Different Road" -

You road along in life a certain way, Olive thought.

They would never get over that night. And it wasn't because they'd been held hostage in a bathroom...no, they would never get over that night because they had said things that altered how they saw each other, and because she had, ever since then, been weeping from a private faucet inside her.

from "Winter Concert" -

And she was happy right now, it was true. Jane Houlton, shifting slightly inside her nice black coat, was thinking that, after all, life was a gift - that one of those things about getting older was knowing that so many moments, they were gifts. And how nice, really, that people should celebrate such earnestness this time of year. No matter what people's lives might hold (some of these houses they were passing would have to hold some woeful tribulatiojns, Janie knew) still and all, people were compelled to celebrate because they knew, somehow, in their different ways, that life was a thing to celebrate.

They had fun together these days, they really did. It was as if marriage had been a long, complicated meal, and now there was this lovely dessert.

A gift, she thought, again, placing her mittened hand lightly on his leg, a gift to be able to know someone for so many years.

She wanted to say their hearts were too old for this now; you can't keep doing this to a heart, can't keep on expecting your heart to pull through.

from "Basket of Trips" -

All she knows these days is that when the sun goes down, it's time to go to bed. People manage. She is not so sure. The tide is still out on that one, she thinks.

from "Security" -

Then Olive felt something she had not expected to feel again: a sudden surging greediness for life...she remembered what hope was, and this was it. That inner churning that moves you forward, plows you through life the way the boats below plowed the shiny water, the way the plane was plowing forward to a new place, and where she was needed.

from "Criminal" -

It's just that i'm the kind of person...that thinks if you took a map of the whole world and put a pin in it for every person, there wouldn't be a pin for me.

She pictured lighting little piles of papers in the woods; she had always liked the sudden small burst of a flame.

from "River" -

What young people did not know, she thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm, oh what young people did not know - that lumpy, aged, and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly, as if it were a tart on a platter with others that got passed around again. No, if love was available again, one chose it, or didn't choose it. And if her platter had been full with the goodness of Henry and she had found it burdensome, had flicked it off, crumbs at a time, it was because she had not known what one should know: that day after day was unconsciously squandered.

And so, if this man next to her was not a man she would have chosen before this time, what did it matter? He most likely wouldn't have chosen her either. 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.


Amie said...

I keep a "To Read" list. I also have a "Have Read" List. I like knowing where I have been and where I want to go. When I discovered Goodreads, it was a perfect place to help me do just that. That is why I invited you too- thought you would love it as much as me.

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