Book review: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

OliveKitteridgeWe were going to be visiting Scott’s family in Maine and I’d never been there before, so I wanted to read something that was set in that state; Scott did a bit of research and suggested Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. Extra points for a Maine novel written by a Maine author!

This book reminded me of:

I kept thinking back to Anne Tyler (Ladder of Years especially, not that I can remember a single detail other than how the book made me feel) and Alice Munro’s Still Life in terms of the female character’s experiences. Alice Munro again because the novel is a collection of short stories that could very well stand on their own. And Wendell Berry because of Strout’s choice to illuminate one small town through the eyes of several very different inhabitants and their very different stories… though to be fair, I think Strout covers a lot more ground in terms of humanizing a wider range of characters and situations.

This book got me thinking about:

…the many different ways aging relationships can go.
Apparently I had unconsciously assumed a very narrow spectrum of feelings and/or options available to people that had been in a relationship for decades, because I was very pleasantly surprised by the number of representations in this book.

…the fraught nature of parent/child relationships.
So many of the characters and scenarios reminded me of just-slightly-more-extreme versions of people and relationships in my own life Continue reading

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Dancing with our demons: artistic perspectives on inner struggles

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There are a lot of things that art, broadly speaking, does for me. During tough times especially, I appreciate the opportunity to get beyond words and into something deeper, vaster, and paradoxically more accessible, if less explicable.

Here are four dance performances that illuminate the challenge of staying on one’s own path, which to me often feels a lot like going against the grain. The differences, gross or subtle, between what I believe and what I value, and how I live. The various arguing inner voices, the wrestling-with-angels, the sleepless nights.

I highly recommend watching full-screen with a good headset or speakers. I have to believe the third was inspired by the second, but who knows? The last one gives me the most hope, though I reject the implication that we need to buy anything in order to liberate ourselves, as it were.

I’d love to hear how you interpret any or all of these performances, how the lyrics resonate with you (or not – honestly I’m so moved by the physical performances it’s hard for me to pay attention to the lyrics!), and/or to see any art you’ve made to represent the struggle of remaining true to yourself when it feels like you’re supposed to stay within the lines. ❤