Who is Olive Kitteridge anyway?

Who is Olive Kitteridge anyway?

Patricia Anders submits-

Hi Joey.

I’m a new Gloucester resident who’s been enjoying Good Morning Gloucester for the past couple of months. What a great way to get acquainted with my new town! My husband and I are from the Greater Los Angeles area, and we just love the true sense of community in Gloucester (in LA, forget about anyone ever stopping in traffic to let you turn left in front of them!).

It’s also been fun to see all the pictures and recreations of downtown for the upcoming HBO film Olive Kitteridge. I was thinking that most Gloucester residents are probably wondering just who is this “Olive Kitteridge,” so I thought maybe they might enjoy reading a book review I wrote about it a few years ago (yes, it was a book—even won a Pulitzer Prize!). Attached is the review that was published in Modern Reformation magazine, of which I am the managing editor (although I’m now also working as an associate editor at Hendrickson over the bridge in Peabody).

Keep up the good work!

All the best,



This review column is subti- tled, “Books Your Neighbors Are Reading,” but I’m thinking  it might need to be called—at least in this case—“Books Your Neighbors Should Be Reading.” I doubt most people race to their newspaper on the day the Pulitzer Prizes are announced (and that goes for the Nobel Prizes as well—
who do you know has read anything by the 2009 literature winner Herta Müller?). These are highly esteemed awards and for writers can mean a nice increase in sales (as these are books rarely found beforehand on The New York Times Best Sellers List). I’m wondering, however, how many of your neighbors logged online or ran down to their local bookseller to grab one of these prize winners?
So, the question remains, how many of your neighbors have even heard of last year’s Nobel winner Herta Müller or the Pulitzer winner  Elizabeth Strout, let alone have read their prize-winning  books? But aren’t we curious to know why these  writers  have won? Surely,  they have accom- plished something worthy of our attention.
Having said all that, let me recommend that you obtain the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Olive Kitteridge; read it yourself and then pass it along to your neighbors! This Pulitzer Prize is awarded for “distinguished fiction  by an American author, preferably dealing with  American life.” According to the Pulitzer  announcement, the prize was awarded to “Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (Random House), a collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating.” But what makes Olive so fas- cinating, and why  do we want to read a story  about a woman “blunt” and “flawed”?
When we meet her, Olive Kitteridge is a cranky retired high school math teacher and her husband Henry, a kindly retired pharmacist.  They seem to have a “normal” life, but this is the beauty and the power of this story: no one’s life is  ordinary,  especially  Olive’s.  What makes  this  book so compelling is the way Olive impacts the lives around her, whether it’s an in-class comment one of her former students remembers—“Don’t  be scared  of your  hunger. If you’re
scared of your hunger, you’ll  just be one more ninny like everyone else” (195)—or an encounter with Nina, a young woman suffering severely from anorexia nervosa.
Nina’s story, located in the chapter “Starving,” is one of the most touching in the novel. Olive Kitteridge appears only in a brief scene, but it is a memorable one. Olive, normally a strong and rather offensive woman, shows a deep sym- pathy for Nina. Having stopped by a friend’s to collect money for the Red Cross, and breaking in upon what she calls “a tea party” in her usual sarcastic manner, Olive notices the thin- ness of Nina and says to her, “You’re starving.” The girl, quite aware of her condition, responds with an ungracious “Uh- duh.” To which  Olive responds, “I’m starving, too.” Nina doesn’t believe her, but Olive persists: “Sure I am. We all are.” A few moments later, we are told through the eyes of a middle-aged man who also is “starving”:

Olive looked through her big black handbag, took a tis- sue,  wiped at her mouth,  her forehead. It took a moment for Harmon to realize she was agitated….Olive Kitteridge was crying. If there was anyone in town Harmon believed he would never see cry, Olive was that person. But there she sat, large and big-wristed, her mouth quivering, tears coming from her eyes. (96)

Olive says to Nina, “I don’t know who you are, but young lady, you’re breaking my heart.” It’s not long before Nina is crying with her, leaning against her and whispering, “I don’t want to be like this.”
This scene comes rather as a shock to the reader who is used to Olive’s off-handed insolence—there doesn’t seem to be a sensitive bone in her big body. She is of solid, hearty Maine stock, a schoolteacher for thirty-two years who thinks she has seen everything. Yet she is moved to tears by a young woman who compels her to disclose that she too is hungry—and perhaps even scared (although she will never confess that she may have become the much-maligned “ninny”). The rest of the story works out the reason for this hunger, and we come to realize that it is really all Olive’s doing. She is stubborn and can’t seem to show love to her husband and her son—at least in the way they need to be loved—and certainly can never admit when she’s wrong. Only too late in life does she finally realize this.
Although she doesn’t seem to support or encourage her husband or son, she somehow gives strength to others— even if it’s merely sitting in the car with  a former student whom she doesn’t realize has returned to his hometown to commit suicide, just as his mother had done years earlier. Strout does not resolve his story for us, and we are left won- dering whether or not Kevin went through with it—but I like to think  he didn’t.  After he saves the life of an old friend (while picking flowers, she happens to slip down the cliff into the ocean while Kevin and Olive are sitting in the car), he says of Patty Howe who clung to him  after he jumped into the water: “Oh, insane, ludicrous, unknowable world! Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on” (47).
In the chapter simply named “Tulips” (Olive is an avid gardener), after her husband Henry has suffered a debili- tating stroke and her son Christopher has moved to California with  his new wife (whom  Olive does not like), Olive finally begins to understand:

There were days—she could remember this—when Henry would  hold her hand as they walked home, middle-aged people, in their prime. Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it. But she had that memory now, of something healthy and pure. (162)

Once again, Strout  says—now  through  Olive, echoing Kevin’s words above—that this is a “strange and incompre- hensible world.” Olive had given permission to Henry to die, and now she pondered whether or not to plant her tulip bulbs “before the ground was frozen” (162).
After some time has elapsed, in the chapter “Security,” Olive travels to visit her newly remarried son (we’re never quite sure if she likes the second wife), who now resides in New York City. As she flies over Maine,

Olive saw spread out below them fields of bright and tender green in this  morning  sun,  farther out the coastline, the ocean shiny and almost flat, tiny white wakes  behind a few lobster  boats—then  Olive felt something she had not expected to feel again: a sud- den surging greediness for life. She leaned forward, peering out the window: sweet pale clouds, the sky as blue as your  hat, the new green of the fields,  the broad expanse  of water—seen  from  up here it all appeared wondrous, amazing. She remembered what hope was, and this was it. That inner churning that moves you forward, plows you through life the way the boats below plowed the shiny water, the way the plane was plowing forward to a place new, and where she was needed. She had been asked to be part of her son’s life. (202–3)

Although Olive appears to be a strong woman, we dis- cover that she is frail—emotionally and spiritually. Only at the age of seventy-two, when she begins to lose those she loved, does she realize what she had.  “Sometimes, like now, Olive had a sense of just how desperately hard every person in the world was working to get what they needed. For most, it was a sense of safety, in the sea of terror that life increasingly became. People thought love would do it, and maybe it did” (211).
In the end, Olive reaches out for companionship but pic- tures it as “two slices of Swiss cheese pressed together, such holes they brought to this union—what  pieces life took out of you” (270). Although there have been chapters of vari- ous characters and their thoughts (with Olive only popping momentarily into a scene), Strout gives Olive the last word: “Her eyes were closed, and throughout her tired self swept
waves  of gratitude—and regret. She pictured the sunny room, the sun-washed wall, the bayberry outside. It baffled her, the world. She did not want to leave it yet” (270).
An interesting “interview” follows the end of the story with  the author, the Random House Reader’s Circle, and Olive Kitteridge. Olive is her usual cantankerous self and when Strout asks Olive why there seems to be so many sui- cidal thoughts or even attempts in such a small town, Olive characteristically answers: “You may be the writer, Elizabeth, but I think it’s a wacky question, and I’ll tell you something else—it’s none of your damn business. Good-bye people. I have a garden to weed.”
It is my sincere hope that you—and your neighbors—
will  eagerly look for the announcement this spring of the
2010 Pulitzer Prize fiction winner. If the next one is anything like Olive Kitteridge, we’re in for a treat—or as Olive would say, “That’s ducky.”

Patricia Anders is managing editor of Modern Reformation.



“This thought  causes Olive to nod her head slowly  as she  lies  on the bed. She knows that loneliness can kill people—in different ways can actually make you die. Olive’s private view is that life depends on what she thinks of as ‘big bursts’ and ‘little bursts.’ Big bursts are things like marriage or children, intimacies that keep you afloat, but these big bursts hold dangerous, un- seen currents. Which is why you need the little bursts as well: a friendly  clerk at Bradlee’s, let’s say, or the waitress at Dunkin’  Donuts who knows how you like your coffee. Tricky business, really.”

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Bass Rocks Golf Club in the Lifting Fog

Bass Rocks Golf Club ©Kim Smith 2013Shrouded in fog–

Bass Rocks Golf Club -1 ©Kim Smith 2013a few moments later–it didn’t take long for the fog to lift in the rising sun. Click image to view larger.

Bass Rocks Golf Club Cat-tails ©Kim Smith 2013. copyCat-tail

Bass Rocks Golf Club -2 ©Kim Smith 2013.

Thanks to Heidi Dallin for the tip to go see how pretty the Golf Course looked. I often see Heidi out running and exercising when filming at daybreak.

In searching for their website link, I learned that the Bass Rocks Golf Cub is the BONS (Best of North Shore) recipient of the 2013 award for the “Best Private Golf Course North Shore!”

Envogue Hair Salon Grand Re-Opening Tonight

Owners Rosalie Orlando -Foti and Felicia Sciortino and their Talented Staff are hosting A Grand Re-Opening tonight at 18 Washington Street Gloucester. Doors open at 4:00 pm. I will be there at 6 pm selling and signing Copies of my cookbook ” Gifts of Gold In A Sicilian Kitchen With Sista Felicia, Harvest” with a fresh batch of Almond Macaroon Cookies. All are invited to attend they will be serving light refreshments and offering many special deals. Great way to start your Holiday Shopping.

Sent from Xfinity Mobile App

Artist Spotlight Series – Regina Piantedosi

spotlight_regina piantidosi

Spotlight on Regina Piantedosi

Regina, a lifelong resident of the North Shore and member of the Rocky Neck Art Colony for two years, has been painting for seven years, but has been a “creative” her entire life. She has lived a full and art filled entrepreneurial life writing, and working as an interior designer and florist.

Regina describes her art as a creative extension of herself, and believes each artist’s work is their fingerprint, unique to them alone. She has always been a non-representational/abstract painter, which is how she interprets her emotions.

Regina is currently using Yupo paper, a treeless synthetic product originally produced for printing. Having vast possibilities, it is resilient, eco-friendly and colors explode on it. Ink, gouache (semi-solid watercolors,) acrylic and gold leaf are her mediums of choice, and her art is created with one or any combination thereof.

You can see more of Regina’s work at The Cultural Center at Rocky Neck, 6 Wonson Street, East Gloucester during the Rocky Neck Holiday Art & Fine Crafts Festival Saturdays and Sundays, Noon-4 PM November 30 – December 29

and look for her during one of the fun parties:

Friday, November 29, 5-7 PM Gala First Choice Preview Party

Saturday, December 7, 2-4 PM High Tea

Sunday, December 15, 3-5 PM Happy Hour

Saturday, December 21, 2-4 PM Winter Solstice Party

Sunday, December 29, 2-4 PM Pre New Year’s Party

E.J. Lefavour

Lordy be, what fun. You will see ~ Dave Sag’s Blues Party Thursday night @The Rhumb Line. 8-11

blues party mike dave frosty
We’re penetrating the Gardol® Shield this week with two of the finest slide glitar players this town has ever produced: Mr. Mike O’Connell and  Mr. David Brown. Mikey is a big favorite, what with his agglutinated vocal style and sponge-coated gritar stylings, he’s sure to have you sucking on your upper plate, whilst he  goes for your jugular.  And Brownie, of course, the systolic swami of slide, with his jewel-encrusted whammy bar and electric gas pedal, surrounded by a spaghetti mess of 2500 feet or so of extra cables. Heartfelt heartbeat duties performed by  one of our favorite egg scramblers: Mr. Forrest “Frosty” Padgett.

The last time this ensemble played together, I thought Mitch Miller was gonna come running and offer us a contract! But seriously, folks, it was a magic night, filled with psychic

DON’T FORGET:  WE’RE ON WINTER HOURS: 8 TO 11. Tell your friends and enemies!
NEXT WEEK:  Wilbur and Orville Giddings with Marque Earley and Steevee Chaggarris, the laughing drummer. The fur will fly. O.G. writes great songs. Nice teeth, too.

THE RHUMB LINE BAR & RESTAURANT40 Railroad Ave.Gloucester, MA 01930phone: 978-283-9732http://www.therhumbline.com/index.htm

Sista’s Helpful Tips

PrintMany years ago this product was highly recommended to me by a friend. She promised that Williams-Sonoma’s Turkey Gravy Base was the biggest time saver and smartest money spent on thanksgiving dinner for her family each year. I was extremely hesitant to try it because nearly everything prepared in my kitchen is done from scratch, but knowing she too was a great cook, I thought I give it a try. Two weeks before Thanksgiving  I went to Williams-Sonoma bought a jar of their Turkey Gravy Base, then headed to the  market, purchased a small turkey breast, and headed home to test the product out before committing to using it on Thanksgiving day. I followed the simple directions on the backside of the jar.   It smelled good, looked great, and it tasted awesome! I was shocked by the flavor and by how easy it was to prepare. Don’t walk RUN to Williams-Sonoma and buy this product!  If you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, this product should be the first item on your Grocery list. The Gravy Base is a seasonal item sold in limited quantities, and they sell out days before Thanksgiving every year. I encourage you to stock up and buy a few extra jars for latter in the winter when your craving turkey and gravy on a cold winter night.

A Thanksgiving Dinner Must Have ~

Today all thanksgiving favorites are 20% off at Williams-Sonoma

gravey base 3


Trust the Sista…Follow the directions on the back of the jar and add some pan dripping… your family and guest will be licking their plates clean! Many of my Thanksgiving recipes including how to roast a turkey that is golden on the outside and juicy on the inside are in my new cookbook “Gifts of Gold In A Sicilian Kitchen with Sista Felicia, Harvest” click here to purchase a copy http://www.storenvy.com/products/2742897-gifts-of-gold-in-a-sicilian-kitchen-with-sista-felicia-harvest

Wally’s Blackburn Bistro From Alish

Hey Joey,
I HAD to share this!! I frequent Wally’s Blackburn Bistro because they simply have the best Chicken Caesar Salad wrap in the world! (also add avocado)
Looked at their site and now they have a few flatbread pizzas too!
I got the Mediterranean and OMG ITS TO DIE FOR!!!!
Roma Tomatoes, Baby Spinach, Red Onions, Black Olives, Goat Cheese & Parmesan. Drizzled with Cape Ann Olive Oil Raspberry Balsamic Reduction and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Seriously, need i say more!!!
Alicia Cox-Dewolfe


Community Stuff 11/13/13


Eastern Point Day School Open House

Monday, November 18th from 9:30 am –11:30 am

Interested parents, guardians and their children are invited to visit Eastern Point Day School on November 18, 2013 from 9:30-11:30 am. Come and meet the dedicated faculty and great students that make Eastern Point Day School a unique and enriching community. Eastern Point Day School is an independent school, Pre-K to 8th grade, focused on thematic teaching with an emphasis on curriculum integration and academic excellence, delivered in a nurturing, creative and dynamic environment.

We offer rolling admission, options to augment homeschool learning, scholarships and financial aid. For more information, please visit www.easternpointdayschool.org or email at info@easternpointdayschool.org.