In fact, Elizabeth Strout has said that Olive is so irritating and brutally honest that only some of the chapters in Olive Again have Olive at its centre because Elizabeth found it difficult to spend too much time with Olive, even though Elizabeth is the one who created her character.
Despite all her annoying behaviours……….. Olive can be extremely empathetic. In one chapter she has the courage to spend time talking honestly and regularly to a neighbour dying of cancer. Other people don’t know what to say to the neighbour and avoid her. At a baby shower where one of the guests goes into labour, Olive is the one to take matters in hand and delivers the baby in the backseat of her car. One of the nursing aides sent to look after Olive after she has a heart attack is a Trump supporter and Olive hates the American president with a passion. Yet, she takes time to listen to the aide’s deeply troubling family story.
The novel and its beautiful, beautiful writing made me think about how……….
Everyone’s life has sadness in it and if we really get to know people we will always find that sadness no matter what kind of cheery exterior they may project.
We all have regrets about the way we lived our lives and it takes courage to go on living and maintaining relationships with people when we have regrets about how we interacted with them in the past.
Everyone is lonely sometimes and we have a choice to stay that way or reach out to the people around us no matter where we are and change our lonely state.
Some people will like you and some people won’t. That is just the way it is and there’s no use beating yourself up about it or letting it stop you from getting joy and meaning out of life.
I was weeping when I finished Olive Again because at the end of the book Olive was in a situation I am getting to know oh so well as the members of my family in the generation just ahead of me near the end of their lives and as I get ever nearer there myself.
Olive Again is a rich and moving novel and it touched me in ways I didn’t expect when I first started it.