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Book Review (but not mine): Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout

July 13, 2010


So here’s a little secret:  I never look at the author’s picture before I finish a book.  Never.  I go to great lengths to avoid that back flap photo the entire time I am reading a book.  And nothing makes me not want to pick up a book more than seeing that author picture splayed all across the back cover.  I know it’s weird, but I feel like I can hear the author’s voice better if I don’t know who’s doing the talking.   When I finally do look, I am often delighted to see that I was way off base in what I thought the author looked like.

Here’s another secret:  I never read a review of a book I want to review before I review it.  Never.  Oh, sure, I’m happy to read reviews after I’ve written mine (just to see if people agree or disagree with me), but never before. Reading another person’s review before I write mine usually just ends up mucking up what I want to convey to my readers.

And then I read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.  

Early on into Olive Kitteridge, I knew I was going to review it for the blog.  It’s just that good.  The writing!  The writing is so divine.  So fine.  I was searching for an image of the book cover to put on my front page when I stumbled upon Lu’s blog,  Ms. Lu, it seems, loved Olive Kitteridge, too.  And before I knew what was happening, I got sucked right into Lu’s critique/love letter to Elizabeth Stout.  And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I read Lu’s letter I knew, just knew, that I would never be able to convey my love of Ms. Stout’s book as well as she did. 

So what’s a girl to do? 

Well, I contacted Lu and just laid it all out: I told her I loved her love letter praising Elizabeth Stout’s book almost as much as I loved Olive Kitteridge.   I asked permission to copy her letter and paste it right here on my blog.  And you know what?  She said “go on ahead!”

Since that day, I have had so much fun going through Lu’s blog.  I feel like I’ve found a kindred-reading-spirit in her.  I went through her list of must reads/don’t reads (she’s got a great rating system).  I agreed with almost every single one (I was especially thrilled when I saw she only gave The Shipping News 2 stars!).  So now I’m a fan of Lu’s, too.  She writes wonderful, insightful book reviews and she’s one heck of a writer, too!  If you’re looking for some good book suggestions, head on over to her site.

So, without further ado, here’s the letter that stole my heart:

Dear Elizabeth,

I’m sorry, I have to apologize.  I can’t review your book.  At least, I can’t call this a review because it’s blubbering drivel of the worshiping variety.

This is easily the best book I have read this year.  You write like I want to write.  You write delicious sentences that make my heart ache.  You take the word shit and you make it sound beautiful.  You wrote a book about a woman who is overbearing and obnoxious and made me love her.  I love her like I love my own grandmother.

Do you want more compliments?  Because I could sing your praises for hours and never get tired.  In fact, I’m thinking about transferring to Charlotte, NC just so I can learn things from you.  I’ve only ever thought about doing that for one other person, and that’s Mr. Komunyakaa.  You deserved every ounce of the Pulitzer.   When I started reading Olive Kitteridge, I felt like you had written this novel just for me.  The first “story” was perfect and I couldn’t believe that you would be able to match it.  But every single story has left me weak in the knees with the beauty and simplicity.  You write novels like poetry, but it comes across so effortless.  I know that you probably spent days, maybe months, mapping out how the lives would interact with dear Olive, but it feels so real to me.  This is not something you made up, all these people really live in Maine.  I wish I lived in Maine.

The ending of this novel gave me chills.  I just can’t even put into words how absolutely perfect it was.  I love this novel unconditionally, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  I’m just so absolutely jealous of you, Elizabeth Strout, for writing this novel about imperfect people making the best of an imperfect world.

I’m going to miss you, Elizabeth, when I go on to read another novel.  I’ll be returning to you, I promise.  Soon, soon.  You have knocked my TBR list to shreds, and that’s okay.  I can forgive you for that.  Just write me more beautiful stories.  Please?


Thank you, Lu, for capturing my love for Olive Kitteridge and Elizabeth Strout’s writing in your beautiful letter.  And thanks for letting me share it with my readers, too!

Happy Reading!



5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2010 6:07 pm

    That’s an incredible review! One that makes a reader go straight to Amazon to check out the book.

  2. Denise permalink
    July 13, 2010 8:14 pm

    just finished this book last week and LOVED it:) Also, small confession to make—started reading “The Shipping News” 4 different times and never finished it….finally gave up. I read Olive Kitteridge in one day.

    • July 13, 2010 9:17 pm

      Ugh! The Shipping News–loathed it! A couple of people in my old book club told me I would LOVE it, so I kept trying. I never understood what the hype was all about with that one!


  1. TSS – 18 July 2010 « Regular Rumination

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