Top positive review
Reviewed in Australia on 22 November 2019
It’s true what they say - Elizabeth Strout is a masterly writer. Here, in a series of vignettes about various people in the town of Crosby, Maine, that almost reads like a series of short stories, we discover the ins and outs of Olive’s later life, because they all know Olive. Of course some of the vignettes are directly about Olive herself. It sometimes feels inconsequential, but in hearing about the mundane details of ordinary lives a picture is built of a whole culture and its idiosyncratic denizens. Olive is as straightforward as ever , her bluntness making us smile, but although she’s insightful (usually), about others, she’s been less insightful about herself and her somewhat strained relationships with, for example, her son. At the end, when she’s well into her eighties and typing up some memories, she thinks: “I do not have a clue who I have been. Truthfully, I do not understand a thing”. Nevertheless, she’s impacted many lives significantly and this book is a marvellous meditation on aging and the growing of wisdom. Which sounds simple but isn’t. There’s many a fine nuance to be traversed.