Monday, August 24, 2009

A book review

Posted by Terry McNichols

One of the books I read this summer that related to our topics here at Grace and Gravity was Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout. I am always on the lookout for books that move me deeply and have redeeming social value. I'm disappointed in a book if it doesn't beg to be underlined (a practice I have now given up so that I can recycle my books on paperbackswap.) I seem to find fewer and fewer books that satisfy these criteria. I try to follow the Rule of 50 of Nancy Pearl, famous Seattle librarian, who says "If you still don't like a book after slogging through the first 50 pages, set it aside. If you're more than 50 years old, subtract your age from 100 and only grant it that many pages." So books don't get more than 40 pages from me if they haven't grabbed me! But Olive Kitteridge caught my interest and reminded me of a quote I have used here before, by E. B. White:
This is what youth must figure out:
Girls, love, and living.
The having, the not having,
The spending and giving,
And the melancholy time of not knowing.

This is what age must learn about:
The ABC of dying.
The going, yet not going,
The loving and leaving
And the unbearable knowing and knowing.

--E. B. White
The short stories in this book, each relating to something in Olive's life, weave together a picture of a woman with unfulfilled dreams and personal shortcomings, like the rest of us, who, in the final chapter, makes some profound discoveries about personal happiness. Her "unconscious squandering" of the days of her life should remind us to treasure the days we are given.

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