Book and a Movie – Olive Again

You go through life and you think you’re something . . . and then you see . . . that you no longer are anything.

Elizabeth Strout’s genius is her ability to take a meandering tale and pin it to the map of relevance with the skill of an acupuncturist. In Olive Again, the just-released sequel to her 2008 Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kitteridge, Strout delves once again into the realm of human tragedy with unexpected humor and pathos, but she takes her time getting there. After an engrossing start, the story loses traction meandering through the lives of Crosby, Maine’s many other retirees. They go about their insular lives with righteous certainty, raging against their treacherous bodies and children and technology until, with the gradual realization of age itself, they sense their own short-comings with an embarrassment to rival that of incontinence.

Olive, who was always obstinately honest, finds love again with the cynical professor Jack Kennison. It is a love foreshadowed in the first novel and beautifully portrayed in this clip from the HBO miniseries starring Frances McDormand and Bill Murray. She also finds new friends, delivers a baby, and does the world a few other favors before reaching a grudging acceptance of her son who, though a confounding disappointment, turned out all right by comparison.

Two themes resonate throughout this Sunday drive of a tale, how to live an honest life and the essential loneliness of people, and it appears that the latter is a result of the first.