Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout

“Stories about women in houses are the real stories of our lives.” The
quote, from director Todd Haynes (of HBO’s “Mildred Pierce”), couldn’t be
more apt for “Olive Kitteridge,” Elizabeth Strout’s novel in stories that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. And it testy heroine, Olive Kitteridge would be thrilling to see on film in all her irascible glory. Strout’s book masterfully mines the emotional landscape of Olive and the
constellation of townsfolk who populate the New England coastal town of
Crosby, Maine, and the book is so rich with the relationships, I’d hate to be the scriptwriter who has to choose which of them to include. Luckily, Olive is imperative. She is the large, lumbering, middle school math teacher who doesn’t filter well in the social arena and has a low
threshold for anyone who can’t suck it up and get on with things. With her big handbag and Dunkin Donuts and short temper, she’s got just the right amount of bad attitude to keep the conflict moving, but underneath her big-boned exterior, has an empathy that is hard earned. Her long-suffering husband, Henry Kitteridge, is the town pharmacist, and the collection’s opening story bears his point of view and contains one of my favorite
lines of characterization:

Inwardly, he suffered the quiet trepidations of a man who had witnessed twice in childhood the nervous breakdowns of a mother who had otherwise cared for him with stridency.”

 

It’s hardly the stuff of cinema, but I can imagine how such lines could define the stark tone of a character-driven film, and set against the harshness of coastal Maine, the trepidations and stridency that are woven throughout the lives Olive encounters would surely come alive. I can only hope there’s a deal in the works.

-Lauren Alwan

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