S4L Book Club – Olive Kittridge

I really liked the story “Security,” where Olive visits Christopher and his new wife, Ann, in New York. I like that the relationship between Chris and Olive is finally exposed. We get hints of it in other stories, and, of course, we’ve gotten to know Olive ourselves, so I wasn’t surprised at what was revealed: that Chris was frustrated with his mother’s inconsistent affections and violent outbursts. She was unpredictable, and as a child, he was afraid of her.

The canned questions ask, “Do you think Olive is really oblivious to how others see her, especially Christopher? Do you think she found Christopher’s accusations in ‘Security’ shocking or just unexpected?”

My answers are that I don’t think Olive is oblivious; I think she chooses to ignore or deny her understanding. And I think she found Christopher’s accusations both shocking and unexpected, not to mention immensely difficult to accept. She and Henry kept such observations, accusations, and admissions mostly to themselves. There were some passing jabs at one another perhaps, but they certainly didn’t confront them head on as Chris does in this story. She was ill equipped to handle Christopher’s approach.

If we’re calling this book a novel, I would say this is the climax. This is where Olive is forced to look at herself, her life, and her relationships honestly. It is the final turning point for her. We see the result of this life-change in her relationship with Jack Kennison, and I, for one, extrapolate from that an improvement in her relationship with Chris after the book ends.

What did you think? Did you place such importance on the relationship between Olive and Christopher? Did you like that story, find it believable? Do you think it would have the effect I claim it does?

If this is a novel, what would you say the climax was?

Categories: Reading

2 replies »

  1. I do think the visit was a turning point for Olive. I agree that she choose to deny the way she was – I think she begins to realize it on the visit to NY; I also think that as she begins a new relationship, with someone who a) didn’t have a history and know forever like everyone else in the town and b) was able to admit his own parenting imperfections, that this further helps her to finally really see and admit how others, and esp. Christopher, see her

  2. Honesty is kind of contagious, isn’t it? I think you’re right that Jack Kennison’s willingness to admit his shortcomings encourages Olive to admit her own.

    Has there been anyone in your life–or is there–who makes you more honest with yourself?