Olive Kiterridge is a collection of short stories about people who live in a small town, and Olive, a retired schoolteacher (who’s also an asshole) is the most prominent character. The author’s website’s description made the book sound appealing to me: “As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life…” I expected to read a poignant, thought provoking book.
I didn’t even make it through the first short story. I dislike the way that Strout seems to think about women. She assigned gender to a task when she wrote, “…[Denise’s hands] that would, with the quiet authority of a woman, someday pin a baby’s diaper…” (11). Parenting is a task for people of all a/gender identities.
Stout kept comparing one character, Denise, to a child, such as when she wrote, “Her child-face, made serious by her glasses, would be intent on the page, her knees poked up, her shoulders slumped forward” (13).” Women are grown ups, not children. Equating a woman to a child is insulting.
Another problem I have with the book is that she describes sex between Olive and her husband, Henry, in a really disgusting way. If you don’t wanna read about it, skip the rest of this paragraph. I forgot to record the page number, but at some point in the first story, she used the word “heaving” to refer to their sexual relations. As I recall, it was something like “[Henry] heaved in the night.” The word heave makes me think of vomiting or moving a heavy object, neither of which is something I wanna think about in relation to sex.
Overall, this book disgusts me on multiple levels.
Strout, Elizabeth. Olive Kitteridge. Random House, 2008.