Monday, January 31, 2011

Elizabeth Strout's "Olive Kitteridge" Captures the Heck Out of a Small New England Town

Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge has been my "car book" for a couple of weeks now. I should probably explain, I'm sort of like squirrels when it comes to books ... I hide them everywhere so that I'll have one on hand for every occasion.

Right now, my upstairs book is The Kennedy Women: The Saga of an American Family. My downstairs book is The Scarpetta Factor. My classroom book is Where the Red Fern Grows, which I've read a hundred times and still love.

And, like I said, Olive Kitteridge has been my car book for a bit so that when I have to go pick Addie up from practice (or when I'm stuck at really long red lights) I have something to do.

I think I ate something funky over the weekend, so let's just say that I went home sick under less than ideal circumstances with many a stop at random gas stations along the way. I'm feeling much better now, which is why I think (I hope) it was just, like, something ingested (or something that my pancreas wasn't thrilled about ... Chuck E. Cheese pizza? Perhaps) instead of a bug. But I'm way off track ...

Yeah, the point is that I brought Olive Kitteridge inside to read while I convalesced, and just totally lost myself in it.

When I was in high school, I saw Grace Metalious' Peyton Place (Hardscrabble Books-Fiction of New England) on a library shelf. Although I'd heard many a sordid reference to it, I'd never read it. Needless to say, I got down to business and totally submersed myself in a world that was all too familiar.

Although I grew up on the New Hampshire seacoast, where we have more in common with Bostonians than the small town, stereotypical, "Ayuh"-stating hick, I am familiar with those small towns. Metalious had it down cold. As did Stephen King in Salem's Lot, John Irving to a certain degree, and Elizabeth Strout with the truly amazing Olive Kitteridge.

I'm not a book reviewer or anything, but I find it amazing when authors are able to capture the nuances of a region with such skill. It's like driving north a few towns, going into the general store, and bumping into some real characters ... totally relatable!