What reading experience have you had where your foibles matched those of a prickly character enough to give you pause?
Man, did I groan uncomfortably a few times reading ""Olive Kitteridge" (2008). But I didn't fully understand how much Olive and I shared until the final story in this remarkable book - entitled "River"- when she started bashing cell phones. Suddenly, I heard clear echoes of my own occasional crabbiness and stubborn resistance to cell phones. As the book ends, Olive is seventy four; I'll be sixty seven later this month - ouch!
The thirteen stories in Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize Winner all take place in Crosby, Maine and each can stand alone. Olive is central to seven of the thirteen; important in a few more (notably "Incoming Tide" and "Starving"); peripheral or incidental in the rest (in "The Piano Player" and "Criminal" she gets just a few sentences). Strout's shimmering prose brilliantly supports her stunning insight about human failings - "... she understood that this form of comfort was true for many people, as it made Malcolm feel better to call Walter a pathetic fairy, but it was thin milk, this form of nourishment ..."
This is not a "happy" book. But it is rich, funny ("Little tiny brownies. What was wrong with making a brownie big enough to sink your teeth into?"), and groundbreaking. And for better or worse - and there's a lot of worse, believe me - Olive Kitteridge is a force of nature. She is ferocious, complicated, kind, and sometimes cruel. Looking in the mirror can sometimes be unsettling, no?