OLIVE KITTERIDGE: Elizabeth Strout: Random House: Fiction: 270 pages
Loosely connected stories of the inhabitants of a small Maine town collectively present a narrative of Olive Kitteridge and her family. The extraordinary accomplishment in this novel is the author’s ability to portray Olive as an incredibly complicated character through her interactions with her family and neighbors, although she is sometimes only briefly mentioned in a particular story. At her son’s wedding, Olive steals one loafer from her daughter-in-law’s closet out of spite, she often speaks sharply to her husband and demonstrates her explosive temper, but she also weeps for a young, anorexic girl, offers support to the students in her classes, and daily visits her husband in a nursing home after a stroke leaves him disabled and unresponsive. Most of the stories are heartbreaking—a bride is left at the altar, a husband cheats on his wife—but somehow the affection between characters and their continued attempts to find happiness ultimately inspire hope.