Sunday, November 13, 2016
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
I think its quite human that authors tend to write about characters like themselves and that resemble people they know. It's also quite human that many of our favorite stories we can relate to in a personal way. There is nothing wrong with this phenomenon.
But I think the power of great fiction is that it allows to you to climb in someone else's skin and walk around in it, to paraphrase one of the finest fictional character ever, Atticus Finch. Indeed, reading fiction has been shown to be one of the few surefire ways to increase empathy in humans.
All of this is to say that Olive Kitteridge is about an elderly woman who lives in rural Maine who more or less has the concerns you would expect her to have. Her husband's health. Her son's family. Slights from other women. Not exactly my world at this point in life. But Olive's story is deeply human. She wants to be loved by those she loves, she must put up with annoying people; at times she feels at time she cannot escape her sadness, during other moments she finds surprising contentment from small victories.
A well-executed piece of fiction.