Never having read the first book about Olive, the book that won the Pulitzer for Strout, I did not know what to expect. As I read, I often laughed out loud and then later thought, “What!” Olive is quite the character, sometimes almost blunt to the point of cruelty, sometimes unexpectedly considerate and kind, and always strongly opinionated about things I did not expect. She also has the ability to sometimes look at herself accurately and question herself, which would seem to be a good characteristic. Olive goes on in spite of numerous setbacks, mishaps, and illnesses, including the realities of old age. Strout’s portrayal of some of these realities seems stark, almost brutal. Yes, it’s accurate and she’s good at it, but I kept thinking, “Do I really want to read this?” If I get like this, they can just shoot me. But they won’t.
One Book a Week-15: “Oh, William”, Elizabeth Strout
Told from the point of view of the main character, Lucy, in first person, the simple language the author uses as Lucy tells her story, reflections, and anecdotes belies the deep knowledge of marriage, parenthood, the entire human condition underlying this novel. Two once married individuals go on a trip to Maine to learn about a relative one did not even know he had until he received the results of a casual DNA test, a gift he did not originally take all that seriously. They’ve been married and then divorced for years and have two daughters together. In spite of their best efforts to the contrary, they remain connected even when they find each other a mystery.
A rather simple story, written in plain language, holds the following piece of wisdom–Lucy’s words which end the novel:
“Everybody in this whole wide world, we do not know anybody, not even ourselves!
Except a little tiny bit we do. But we are all mythologies, mysterious. We are all mysteries, is what I mean.
This may be the only thing in the world I know to be true.”