Olive, Again

Olive, Again

by Elizabeth Strout


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout continues the life of her beloved Olive Kitteridge, a character who has captured the imaginations of millions.

“Strout managed to make me love this strange woman I’d never met, who I knew nothing about. What a terrific writer she is.”—Zadie Smith, The Guardian

“Just as wonderful as the original . . . Olive, Again poignantly reminds us that empathy, a requirement for love, helps make life ‘not unhappy.’”—NPR 

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY PEOPLE AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Time Vogue • NPR • The Washington Post • Chicago Tribune Vanity Fair • Entertainment Weekly BuzzFeed  Esquire Real Simple • Good Housekeeping • The New York Public Library • The Guardian Evening Standard • Kirkus Reviews Publishers Weekly BookPage
Prickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is “a compelling life force” (San Francisco Chronicle). The New Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire us—in Strout’s words—“to bear the burden of the mystery with as much grace as we can.”

Praise for Olive, Again

“Olive is a brilliant creation not only because of her eternal cantankerousness but because she’s as brutally candid with herself about her shortcomings as she is with others. Her honesty makes people strangely willing to confide in her, and the raw power of Ms. Strout’s writing comes from these unvarnished exchanges, in which characters reveal themselves in all of their sadness and badness and confusion. . . . The great, terrible mess of living is spilled out across the pages of this moving book. Ms. Strout may not have any answers for it, but she isn’t afraid of it either.”The Wall Street Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812996548
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/15/2019
Series: Oprah's Book Club Series
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 567
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Strout is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Olive Kitteridge, winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Olive, Again, an Oprah’s Book Club pick; Anything Is Possible, winner of the Story Prize; My Name is Lucy Barton, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize; The Burgess Boys, named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and NPR; Abide with Me, a national bestseller; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the International Dublin Literary Award, and the Orange Prize. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker and O: The Oprah Magazine. Elizabeth Strout lives in New York City.


Brooklyn, New York

Date of Birth:

January 6, 1956

Place of Birth:

Portland, Maine


B.A., Bates College, 1977; J.D., Syracuse College of Law, 1982

Read an Excerpt


Two days earlier, Olive Kitteridge had delivered a baby.

She had delivered the baby in the backseat of her car; her car had been parked on the front lawn of Marlene Bonney’s house. Marlene was having a baby shower for her daughter, and Olive had not wanted to park behind the other cars lined up on the dirt road. She had been afraid that someone might park behind her and she wouldn’t be able to get out; Olive liked to get out. So she had parked her car on the front lawn of the house, and a good thing she had, that foolish girl—her name was Ashley and she had bright blond hair, she was a friend of Marlene’s daughter—had gone into labor, and Olive knew it before anyone else did; they were all sitting around the living room on folding chairs and she had seen Ashley, who sat next to her, and who was enormously pregnant, wearing a red stretch top to accentuate this pregnancy, leave the room, and Olive just knew.

She’d gotten up and found the girl in the kitchen, leaning over the sink, saying, “Oh God, oh God,” and Olive had said to her, “You’re in labor,” and the idiot child had said, “I think I am. But I’m not due for another week.”

Stupid child.

And a stupid baby shower. Olive, thinking of this as she sat in her own living room, looking out over the water, could not, even now, believe what a stupid baby shower that had been. She said out loud, “Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.” And then she got up and went into her kitchen and sat down there. “God,” she said.

She rocked her foot up and down.

The big wristwatch of her dead husband, Henry, which she wore, and had worn since his stroke four years ago, said it was four o’clock. “All right then,” she said. And she got her jacket—it was June, but not warm today—and her big black handbag and she went and got into her car—which had that gunky stuff still left on the backseat from that foolish girl, although Olive had tried to clean it as best she could—and she drove to Libby’s, where she bought a lobster roll, and then she drove down to the Point and sat in her car there and ate the lobster roll, looking out at Halfway Rock.

A man in a pickup truck was parked nearby, and Olive waved through her window to him but he did not wave back. “Phooey to you,” she said, and a small piece of lobster meat landed on her jacket. “Oh, hell’s bells,” she said, because the mayonnaise had gotten into the jacket—she could see a tiny dark spot—and would spoil the jacket if she didn’t get it to hot water fast. The jacket was new, she had made it yesterday, sewing the pieces of quilted blue-and-white swirling fabric on her old machine, being sure to make it long enough to go over her hind end.

Agitation ripped through her.

The man in the pickup truck was talking on a cellphone, and he suddenly laughed; she could see him throwing his head back, could even see his teeth as he opened his mouth in his laughter. Then he started his truck and backed it up, still talking on his cellphone, and Olive was alone with the bay spread out before her, the sunlight glinting over the water, the trees on the small island standing at attention; the rocks were wet, the tide was going out. She heard the small sounds of her chewing, and a loneliness that was profound assailed her.

It was Jack Kennison. She knew this is what she had been thinking of, that horrible old rich flub-dub of a man she had seen for a number of weeks this spring. She had liked him. She had even lain down on his bed with him one day, a month ago now, right next to him, could hear his heart beating as her head lay upon his chest. And she had felt such a rush of relief—and then fear had rumbled through her. Olive did not like fear.

And so after a while she had sat up and he had said, “Stay, Olive.” But she did not stay. “Call me,” he had said. “I would like it if you called me.” She had not called. He could call her if he wanted to. And he had not called. But she had bumped into him soon after, in the grocery store, and told him about her son who was going to have another baby any day down in New York City, and Jack had been nice about that, but he had not suggested she come see him again, and then she saw him later (he had not seen her) in the same store, talking to that stupid widow Bertha Babcock, who for all Olive knew was a Republican like Jack was, and maybe he preferred that stupid woman to Olive. Who knew? He had sent one email with a bunch of question marks in the subject line and nothing more. That was an email? Olive didn’t think so.

“Phooey to you,” she said now, and finished her lobster roll. She rolled up the paper it had come in and tossed it onto the backseat, where that mess still showed in a stain from that idiot girl. 

“I delivered a baby today,” she had told her son on the telephone.


“Did you hear me?” Olive asked. “I said I delivered a baby today.”

“Where?” His voice sounded wary.

“In my car outside Marlene Bonney’s house. There was a girl—” And she told him the story.

“Huh. Well done, Mom.” Then in a sardonic tone he said, “You can come here and deliver your next grandchild. Ann’s having it in a pool.”

“A pool?” Olive could not understand what he was saying.

Christopher spoke in a muffled tone to someone near him.

“Ann’s pregnant again? Christopher, why didn’t you tell me?”

“She’s not pregnant yet. We’re trying. But she’ll get pregnant.”

Olive said, “What do you mean, she’s having it in a pool? A swimming pool?”

“Yeah. Sort of. A kiddie pool. The kind we had in the backyard. Only this one is bigger and obviously super clean.”


“Why? Because it’s more natural. The baby slides into the water. The midwife will be here. It’s safe. It’s better than safe, it’s the way babies should be born.”

“I see,” said Olive. She didn’t see at all. “When is she having this baby?”

“As soon as we know she’s pregnant, we’ll start counting. We’re not telling anyone that we’re even trying, because of what just happened to the last one. But I just told you. So there.”

“All right then,” Olive said. “Goodbye.”

Christopher—she was sure of this—had made a sound of disgust before he said, “Goodbye, Mom.”

Reading Group Guide

1. Olive Kitteridge is a fascinating character. Some readers might see her as abrasive and unlikeable; others might see her as honest and sympathetic. How do you characterize Olive? What do you appreciate about her? What irks you about her? Is she someone you’d like to meet in real life?

2. If you read Olive Kitteridge, do you feel Olive has changed in Olive, Again? If so, in what ways? If not, what about her has stayed the same?

3. During a fight with her son, Christopher, Olive realizes “that she had been frightened of her son for years.” How does she come to this realization? How does it influence how Olive thinks of herself as a mother?

4. Watching Ann yell at Christopher, Olive realizes she had yelled at her late husband, Henry, in much the same way. What does she come to accept about herself as a person? How does she ask for forgiveness?

5. In today’s climate of increased awareness about sexual harassment, how did you feel reading “Cleaning,” the chapter about Kayley and Mr. Ringrose? Would you qualify it as a type of harassment, or did you feel Kayley was empowered and exploring her sexuality? Does the fact that Mr. Ringrose left Kayley money complicate any of your feelings?

6. Consider this passage: “These were openings into the darkness of a relationship one saw by mistake, as if inside a dark barn, the door had been momentarily blown off and one saw things not meant to be seen.” Do you think all relationships have a secret darkness that outsiders don’t see, or do only troubled relationships have this?

7. Strout writes that there were a few nights during Jack’s marriage to Olive where “he had sat on the front porch and had—half drunk—wept, because he wanted to be with Betsy instead.” How did you interpret this? Did it feel like a betrayal (even involuntarily) to you, or simply a fact of life?

8. Bernie and Suzanne have an interesting relationship. What are the different secrets and experiences that bond them together? How did they both help each other? Do you think it’s rare to see an emotionally—but not physically—intimate relationship like theirs in fiction? What about in real life?

9. Bernie tells Suzanne she doesn’t need to tell her husband about her affair. She clearly believes it’s a mistake and isn’t planning to repeat it. Do you agree with Bernie’s advice? Is it ever smarter to keep a secret like that, or do you believe one must always tell the truth?

10. Olive and Cindy, who might be terminally ill, have an interesting conversation about death. They both admit to being afraid of it, but Olive—in her special way—comforts Cindy by reminding her, “The truth is—we’re all just a few steps behind you. Twenty minutes behind you, and that’s the truth.” Was this notion a comfort to you? What do you think would happen if people, even those who aren’t terminally ill, started speaking more openly about death?

11. When Olive is talking about her marriage to Jack with Cindy, she says, “Imagine at my age, starting over again.” Then she adds, “But it’s never starting over, Cindy, it’s just continuing on.” Why do you think she corrects herself in this way? What different connotations do those two phrases—starting over and continuing on—hold?

Customer Reviews

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Olive, Again: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
Anonymous 10 months ago
She continues to be one of my favorite authors and I really like and understand her characterOlive. Loved the way she integrated characters from other novels into this novel and into her life. Waiting for the next one!..
Anonymous 10 months ago
I didn't want this to end!
Anonymous 10 months ago
I waited for this book,only to find I prefer the first centered around Olive.
Anonymous 5 months ago
I could not help but highlight dozens of sentences throughout the novel that struck me in the heart for their courageous honesty.
mississippimomreads 9 months ago
Hells Bells and Godfrey! Olive is Back! Elizabeth Strout has produced another novel full of quirky characters and aging narrators and I don't know how she can create a whole town full of characters full of back stories and trauma and personality! This book takes us back to Crosby, Maine, where Olive is now a widow...and is on the heels of marrying again. I know! Who would have thought grumpy ol' Olive would find love again! She is still somewhat estranged from her son and is trying to navigate the world in this new normal without Henry. I enjoyed the book and this Pulitzer Prize winning author has brought us Olive back, but this time in her golden years and maybe final years as she watches loved ones pass over the bridge. I enjoyed this collection of stories, all about Crosby, Maine and its citizens, but preferred the stories where Olive was the focus. If you have previously read Amy and Isabelle or The Burgess Boys, you'll find some of these characters making an appearance in the stories. Thank you to NetGalley and to Penguin Random House for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Nancyadair 10 months ago
lizabeth Strout's Olive, Again only confirms her as one of my favorite contemporary writers of literary fiction. The temperamental Olive in her later decades demonstrates qualities that only come with experience and self-reflection, enabling her to be an instrument of grace to others. She is still a straight-shooter who sees things unvarnished, her truthfulness sometimes abrasive. The stories in this book revisit characters from Strout's fictional world of Crosby, Maine. This was a hard story to read. At age 67, my husband and I have undergone several surgeries this year. I am all too aware of the brevity of life and how we allow ourselves to be propelled through the years impassively until some change in our abilities stops us up short. We reconsider our mistakes; our view of the past and its relationships become torqued with new understanding. We wonder how we could have allowed love to become a battleground, fear to fence us from our dreams. We become invisible, an unwanted portend to others of their own inevitable future. We recognize that we are strangers to each other--and are incomprehensible even to ourselves. What kind of life can we live in these ever-shortening days? The answer is in the line that had me in tears: "I think our job--maybe even our duty--is to--" Her voice became calm, adultlike. "To bear the burden of the mystery with as much grace as we can." Life is a mystery. People are a mystery. There are no answers, no easy to follow instructions to guarantee success and happiness. Like Ranier Maria Rilke wrote in his Letters to a Young Poet, we must "be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked doors and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.."* I don't know if Olive's story is completed. And I am not sure I want to follow her to her end. It's all too close to home. Strout is a fearless writer who dares to confront us with things that disturb our equilibrium. We recognize ourselves in her characters. I read a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
mweinreich 10 months ago
This book is going to go into a new file I am calling, "I wish I had liked it more." While it certainly had its many pluses as the irascible Olive was back in rare form, it also had a number of puzzling occurrences and a chapter that had me scratching my head wondering why. Olive is getting older or as we who are in the same boat like to say, becoming more mature. She still goes about, saying "Oliveisms" and ticking off a few people, including family, but she has developed a new inner perspective. It's like Olive looked into a mirror that was able to see inside herself and she wasn't all that thrilled with the reflection. She has a new love in her life, Jack, who recognizes her for the snob she is, but still loves her. Her relationship with her son is always on the fritz as they all walk a very tight line between I can tolerate you and I can't stay in your company another minute. But as mentioned, Olive is maturing, and starts down a road that she should have traveled a long time ago, but hey, better late than never. Perhaps it is never too late to salvage relationships. All in all, this was a good story, although even after a number of days thinking about it I am still a bit perplexed. However, as Olive discovers, and we do as well, there are always gray areas and Olive and her author have explored the grayness and we are left to puzzle out the rest. 4 stars for me and yes, I was a tad disappointed, but I am working on my gray areas. Thank you to Elizabeth Strout, Random House, and NetGalley for a copy of this book due to be published o
paigereadsthepage 10 months ago
The main character, Olive, picks up shortly after where she left off in the previous novel, Olive Kitteridge. While this is the second novel in the series, it can easily be read as a standalone because she recaps the main events that happened in the first novel. However, I recommend reading the first novel in order to appreciate some of the returning characters. Life’s transitions, juxtapositions, and troubles are celebrated through Olive and the other characters. I found the last half of the novel to be extremely emotional. Olive is reaching a fragile point in her life and begins to calculate its significance and purpose. What makes a full life? As Olive ages, she continues to engage in the boulevard of life while trying to amount her existence. In Olive, Again there are thirteen short stories. Out of the 13 short stories, 5 of those are Olive’s direct story. In the remaining 8 stories, Olive makes an appearance in some shape or form. Each short story relates to the central theme of the novel to some degree and occur near or in the setting of Maine. Topics include suicide, sexual freedom, family, adultery, and aging. I love Olive, Again and recommend to lovers of literary sagas and contemporary fiction . Thank you to Elizabeth Strout, Random House, and NetGalley for a copy. Opinions are my own.
Robert Will 12 days ago
Really depressing
terri lambert 13 days ago
slow but good
ginnybee 24 days ago
Tried but could not put this down.
JennyPodesta 27 days ago
What is it about Olive that makes me love these books so much? Reading “Olive, Again” was like reconnecting with an old friend. Olive can be a little brash, but there’s so much of her to love. Her story is so authentic and relatable, and watch her growing pains is cathartic. Author Elizabeth Strout has such a way of observing human relationships and telling stories that we can all learn from. These books (I do recommend you read them in order) are so simple, yet teach us so much about ourselves. I personally loved the Olive books, and would recommend them to most of my friends, especially mothers. #OliveAgain #NetGalley
Anonymous 3 months ago
Thank you to Random House and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I thought this was simply phenomenal. Elizabeth Strout once again shows her adeptness at painting a wide cast of very human very real characters. Olive, again is a blend of inter-connected short stories like the first collection that read somewhere between a series of short stories and a novel. I must admit that it had been too long since the first book and I didn't remember the characters so had to read the wiki synopsis of book 1. I thought it was so interesting to see Olive's relationship with all of the characters around her flushed out more - from her son to Jack to a young teenager cleaning houses. "Cleaning" btw was my favorite story. Elizabeth Strout paints such an evocative image of life in this small Maine town and Olive is such a 3D character that you can't help but turn page after page. I enjoyed this immensely.
Silvana Hoffman 3 months ago
Elizabeth Strout never disappoints - her books are well written; however, this book was just so darn sad. A lot of different "peeks" into other people's lives and they were all so sad.
Laeljeanne 3 months ago
Fans of Elizabeth Strout can assuredly pick up a new novel by her without checking the summary, especially if it’s once again (see what I did there…) about her most interesting character Olive Kitteridge. Told from the perspectives of her fellow townspeople whose lives intersect with hers in a profound way, as well as from her own, it’s reminiscent of Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (way back in the day, but such a classic work), providing nuances not accessible from a single point of view, especially one as focused as Olive’s. Endearing she is not, but fascinating she is, so complex and surprisingly wise, even compassionate, in unexpected ways—Olive has her lovers and haters; no one is on the fence about this lady. This book could stand on its own, though it is definitely buttressed by its predecessor Olive Kitteridge. Unfortunately for OK’s fans, this may be her swan song. Dismayed at the fast forwarding of the latter half of the book, this Dear Reader saw the end coming too soon, losing Strout a precious star. I received a digital copy of this story from one of my favorite authors from the publisher Random House through NetGalley.
Anonymous 3 months ago
I am so disappointed in this book. I felt that the era of this story was based in ( 1960s) and was very surprised that it was based on just the past few years. As I was reading the book and felt its political message didn't quite fit into the story. When it was mention several times I felt that it was very unnecessary and just a way for the Author to put their own political view out there. I unfortunately purchase the book into the 3rd chapter, and will not read it or any of Elizabeth Strouts books again. Patty J
juliusa 3 months ago
Didn't think it possible but this is even better that the first! Highly moving and deep. And the insertion of characters from her other amazing books just make this even more wonderful. As someone who is aging it's easy to relate. And if you're younger it's a wonderful to understand those of us who are getting on in years. Amazing read. Thank you.
nlbress 3 months ago
I received an ARC. I did not read the first Olive Kitteridge, so I came into her story without the backstory. Still, it was easy to get into. I didn't always love the stories-in-stories format - would have loved to hear from Olive more - but there were touching moments and the focus on aging, loneliness, and relationships felt particularly timely.
Marianne Ardito 4 months ago
Here we have an older Olive Kitteridge. She keeps her tough reality based edges but continues to be a truly good human. It is easy to miss her goodness because of the toughness. Yet, she gives comfort to others by listening to them and in her way, bearing witness to their struggles. She looks for people to connect with and in rare moments finds love and friends. Read this. There is wisdom in good stories.
DesperatelySeekingReader 4 months ago
A must read classic that provids a glimpse into the power of memory and the emotional realities of advanced aging.
Ms-Hurst 4 months ago
I had heard so many good things about this book. I read it without having ever read the first book. Maybe that would have given some context to this mashup of stories about a small town in Maine that only seemed loosely related to the title character. Some of the characters were interesting and some were not. I really enjoyed some chapters but found others long and tedious. It was like reading a book of short stories set in the same town. Maybe in the future I will read the first book and feel more connected to this one.
Kathleen Fortune 4 months ago
Great stoey. I just love E. Strouts books!
Bookswithjams 5 months ago
This is a collection of short stories with a common thread, Olive Kitteridge. She tells it like it is, which is brutally honest. Given her age, most folks just either ignore it, or appreciate her honesty and find it refreshing (or maybe not exactly refreshing, but they laugh it off). She is dating, and eventually marries for companionship, and of course her son does not handle this well. But is he a regular in her life? No he is not, he keeps his distance, such that when they come to visit it is one of the most awkward encounters I have read in a while. I was literally cringing for everyone. I adored Olive and her quirks, could I live with them regularly? No. But did I understand her? Absolutely. She is unabashedly who she is, and those who don't like her can keep it moving. She is usually spot on in her assessments of people, and those that can appreciate her usually are the better for it. What you can take away from this delightful novel is that relationships at all ages are hard, especially as we get older. We need to be aware of this not only as we get older, but as we are around those that are older than us. What I also took away from Olive is that it's ok to speak our minds, because there are a lot of derps in this world that could use a lot more Olive in their life. I happen to be one of them.
Anonymous 5 months ago
I hope we get to spend time with Olive at least once more.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Olive, Again portrays a deeply feeling woman who masks those feelings with blunt assessment of those around her. You won't soon forget this woman who speaks her truth, and occasionally kindness, to the people she encounters.