Weekly Geeks - Interview with a Reader, Part 1

This week Dewey had us pair up with another WG and we interviewed each other about a book we'd read.

Beastmomma handed me some great questions about my recent read, Olive Kitteridge.

To someone who is unfamiliar with the work of Elizabeth Strout, would you say that Olive Kitteridge was a good introduction to her writing? How does it compare to her other work?
This is the first Strout book I’ve read; I have her book Amy and Isabel on my TBR shelf (it was short listed for the Orange Prize) and will read it in 2009 for the Orange January read.

Which story was your favorite and why?
I loved the last story, "River." It showed some growth and change in Olive, finally an ability to examine her beliefs and her rigidness. It was nice to see her finally melt into her life and let go a bit.

From what POV were the stories told?
3rd Person, with a shifting narrator throughout the book. This is very effective for perspective and depth of the characters.

How did you like the short story format as compared to the novel format?
I do love a good collection of short stories and have been reading more of the genre lately. Olive Kitteridge felt like something in between short stories and a novel because of the recurring characters. We see Olive in every story, sometimes as the central character, sometimes as a peripheral character and a couple of times, just as a mention, referring to something she said or did. What I loved about this format was it gave an insight into Olive's character from so many different perspectives that we wouldn't have gotten had there been just one narrator.

What are some of your favorite lines from the book?
"What young people didn’t know, she thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm; oh, what young people did not know. They 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. " (p.270)

"But the gesture, the smooth cupping of the little girl’s head, the way Suzanne’s hand in one quick motion caressed the fine hair and thin neck, has stayed with Olive. It was like watching some woman dive from a boat and swim easily up to the dock. A reminder how some people could do things others could not." (p. 64)

To what does the title refer?
Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, is present in each of the stories, some more than others. She is not like a center that the other lives revolve around (almost the opposite), but someone who touches the lives of all the stories’ characters. And not always in a positive way.

How did the short stories contribute to your understanding of people in Maine? Are there some unique characteristics of folks from Maine or something unique about the way of life there?
I don’t think these characters are unique to Maine. I think they are quite ordinary and somewhat universal.

What made you decide to read this book?
It had been receiving rave reviews on LibraryThing and I’ve had it on my TBR list for quite awhile. Then one of the LT groups I belong to decided to read it for a group read.

Who do you think would enjoy this book? Who would not enjoy it? Would you read it again?
The book has been compared to Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. I think people who enjoy short stories would enjoy it, as would people who enjoy character driven books. Much of the focus is on relationships – someone who doesn’t care to read about relationships, growth and change would probably not like this book. I would definitely read this one again – I think I would get a deeper understanding of the characters.

Who was your favorite character and why?
I liked Olive's second daughter-in-law, Ann. She was straightforward, had no pretenses and was very open to people of all types.

I'll be posting my interview with Beastmomma sometime this weekend.