Saturday, 25 April 2020

Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge is a beautifully written and tender book about a woman, her marriage and the people in her community in coastal Maine. The narrative follows different individuals in each chapter who each try to determine what love looks like in the context of their challenging relationships.

This novel is explores how people recognise and accept love, reject or ignore love, crave it, are repulsed by it, confused or vexed by it, and overwhelmed with it. The characters investigate what it means to feel angry or betrayed by those they love and invested their love in, what it means to have had love and not known how to respond to it, and how loving someone in one way may have caused them a tremendous amount of hurt and baggage. These loves are manifested between husband and wife, friends, siblings, neighbours, strangers, lovers, parents and children.

Some questions:

How do we love people ways that are bad for them?
Is love most acknowledged or felt once it is lost or absent?
Can we forgive the dead for compromising memories of love through betrayals?
Can we forgive the living for loving us in painful ways?
Can we learn to love those we hate?
Can we understand our hate/repulsion as coming from a place of love?
How do we understand our acceptance and endurance of a love that is not respectful or equal?
How can we understand surprising moments when we love without feeling or knowing we are able?
Do we have reserves of love, sympathy and compassion that we are not aware of?
Do we have a finite amount of love or can we always muster more?
How much does our sense of our own "loveability" determine how we are loved or choose to be loved?

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