Phil Dunphy

"I’m the cool dad, that’s my thang. I’m hip, I surf the web, I text. LOL: laugh out loud, OMG: oh my god, WTF: why the face." - Phil Dunphy

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


            Elizabeth Strout’s 2008 novel, Olive Kitteridge, dives in and out of numerous peculiar narratives about the townsfolk in Crosby, Maine. Each narrative includes the character, Olive Kitteridge, in some way or form, weaving her unforgettable presence into many people’s lives. Now two-thirds of the way finished with Strout’s work, my feelings towards her book have changed since the beginning of the novel. No longer do I read Strout’s work with a smile on my face and an urge to turn the page, but rather a depressing feeling that just wants Strout’s tales to end. I find that as the book progresses, the narratives become darker and darker with more evils entering into the character’s lives. For example, Strout’s first few narratives of her work end with lessons learned by certain characters, as well as hope. For instance, Strout constructs a story about a young boy named Kevin Coulson who plans to commit suicide. However, while risking his life to save a childhood friend from the ferociousness of the ocean, Kevin admires his friend’s will exclaiming, “Look how she wanted to live” (47). Kevin’s commendable tone towards his friend’s perseverance to live strikes hope in the minds of the readers, suggesting that Kevin may choose not to commit suicide. The very next narrative ends in a similar, hopeful way. The piano player in the town’s bar, Angela O’Meara, struggles with relationships. Strout describes a past relationship with a fellow pianist named Simon, as well as a current relationship with a married man named Malcolm. After a night with confrontations between both Simon and Malcolm, Angela makes the decision to move on, announcing that “Even drunk, she knew she would not call him [Malcolm]” (60). Angela’s choice to leave crippling relationships to better her life motivates Strout’s audience to do the same in their lives. After these inspiring narratives however, Olive Kitteridge seems take a U-Turn. Strout relates a tale of a young anorexic girl named Nina. With the help of Olive Kitteridge and a widowed woman named Daisy, Nina seeks the aid of her parents in order to cure her disease. Despite all of Daisy and Olive’s efforts, Daisy must pass on the saddening news a few months later, “The funeral’s private” (100). Strout creates false sense of hope in this narrative, robbing readers of a feeling of success and happiness. Strout then goes on to weave a story of how the Kitteridges unfortunately become hostages in an armed robbery at the hospital. Instead of finding peace and forgiveness after the drastic event, the townspeople conclude that “Both Kitteridges were changed by the event” (105). The next paragraph goes on to explain how this “change” experienced by the Kitteridges proved unhealthy. Strout’s writing clearly depicts how not every challenge encountered by an individual ends happily ever after.


  1. In regards to Nina, I did not find the event incredibly tragic. Instead, I thought that it warned girls of the potential dangers of eating disorders. Though a dark subject, Strout uses Nina to really persuade young women to properly take care of themselves. Thus, I believe the positive message aligns with the previous chapters.

  2. Before my middle school years my family would vactaion to Maine as frequently as possible. I found similarities between Strout's "U-Turn" writing style and the climate of Maine and its bordering states. For example, shorter summers with beautiful weather and pristine temperatures provide visitors with peace and hope as a result of release from the stresses of daily life. Then the long winter complete with short, dark days imposes a depressing mood on those that opt to brave the cold environmnet.