I have a weird relationship with books that have award badges on the cover. On the one hand, I feel like I should be guaranteed a good read because someone smarter/more influential than me, or, more likely, a whole committee of someones, thinks this is great writing. On the other hand, there's ALL kinds of politics that go into the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pulitzer, Booker Prize, National Book Award, etc. All kinds of insider wrangling, I'm sure. And just because it's their cup of tea (or Three Cups of Tea) doesn't mean it's mine.
So when I picked up Olive Kitteridge, I wasn't sure if I was in for a reward or a disappointment.
Verdict: REWARD! And this was a vacation read, so I had the decadent opportunity to read the whole book in under 24 hours (mostly with sand between my toes). Even better.
I love, love, LOVE how we are introduced to Olive by the people around her in town. Her family, her students, her friends (she's a crusty codger, but she does have friends, even in spite of herself). It's not until much later in the book that we start to see Olive from Olive's perspective. And it's so gradual, I hardly even noticed it until days after finishing the book!
Fun to hear Maine and New England place names bandied about - in a fictional way. She goes shopping at the So-Fro at Cook's Corner. First, you will only know where Cook's Corner is if you're from a pretty small radius around Brunswick, and OMG, I can remember tagging behind my own mother at So-Fro (there used to be a So-Fro INSIDE the Maine Mall.... can you even imagine it today? "Yeah, the So-Fro is right near Justice and Abercrombie & Fitch....")
Olive is vivid in my imagination. Strout is from Maine, and she got the Maine "vibe" absolutely right. The language, the culture, a certain "how things are done" here. We aren't a colder version of The American South. Maine is unique.