Of course, I read this before I knew it was a mini-series, so once again I am a bit out of touch. Nonetheless, some notes:
- Strout weaves Olive in and out of the story, sometimes featuring her narrative point of view, sometimes not. The chapters function almost as short stories, and it didn’t take long for me to keep looking for Olive to appear.
- I wanted to like her, a lot. I wanted her to be the sort of cranky, sort of fun, ultimately goodhearted aunt who I grew up. Spoiler alert: she’s not.
- After lots of big scope, epic fantasy, even when those novels tried to be as personal as possible, this novel felt like a nice change of pace. I kept getting a bit thrown off by the constant narrative understatements, ones in which the character seemed to deliberately identify the most mundane element of the drama that had been presented to them.
- This happened for a lot of reasons, but it made me feel that the dialogue in the novel was real, in that problematic term that I keep struggling with, over and over…
- Part of the novel’s beauty is the seriousness it approaches aging with. Olive is bound tightly to a small town in Maine, to her long-suffering husband, to her son who will not take it anymore, to her identity as tough math teacher who her students are afraid of, to someone who is pretty unclear about how to live life. Strout gives us just enough of Olive to form an image that I felt then I had softened far too much. Readerly expectations…ftl…