Olive, Again (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

Olive, Again (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

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 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Time Vogue • NPR • The Washington Post • Chicago Tribune Entertainment Weekly  Esquire Real Simple • Good Housekeeping • The New York Public Library • The Dallas Morning News • 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: 9780812996555
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/15/2019
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 73
File size: 1 MB

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.”

Customer Reviews

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Olive, Again: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
Anonymous 4 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 5 months ago
I didn't want this to end!
Anonymous 5 months ago
I waited for this book,only to find I prefer the first centered around Olive.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Olive Kitteridge is a woman who finds life a puzzlement. Prickly on the outside, she is, in her heart , a woman who is profoundly caring. She stumbles through life offending people and having to apologise or atone. She is, with all her flaws, a lovable character, perhaps because we can see ourselves in her humanity. In the end, she still finds life a mystery. Touch and hold a clip to pin it. Unpinned clips will be deleted after 1 hour.
mississippimomreads 4 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.
mweinreich 5 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 5 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.
Anonymous 2 days 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.
Anonymous 2 days ago
Anonymous 2 days ago
Not nearly as good as her previous books.
Anonymous 2 days ago
just ok
Anonymous 2 days ago
I could not help but highlight dozens of sentences throughout the novel that struck me in the heart for their courageous honesty.
Anonymous 2 days ago
This book rambles on, and on. But, there is no point. Perhaps I am too dull to see the authors "meaning, or message", but I don't think so. This was time and money wasted.
Anonymous 2 days ago
Didn't want it to end.
Anonymous 15 days ago
I received Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout as an ARC from NetGalley. This novel is the sequel to Olive Kitteridge which I've also read. Olive Kitteridge tells 13 stories of residents in Crosby, Maine who are tied together by Olive. In Olive, Again Elizabeth Strout continues to tell stories of the residents who are all part of Olive's life. Olive is not always a likable character but she is a very interesting character who is very well written. Strout is a master at writing about the intricacies of life using interesting characters. This book kept me engrossed throughout the novel & I highly recommend it. I've also read My Name is Lucy Barton which I enjoyed as well. Strout's books are for people who enjoy reading about others who are not cookie-cutter characters.
SharoninAZ 20 days ago
It was a sheer delight to back in Olive Kitteridge's world! Olive, Again is not so much a novel that you read as it is a novel that you feel. I don't have anything in common with Olive, don't live in a town that resembles hers at all, and don't have any people in my life like those that inhabit Olive, Again. Yet, from the very first word, author Elizabeth Strout had me completely immersed in Olive-Land. Olive, Again lets us into Olive's life in her seventies and eighties. Not every chapter is about Olive per se, but it is about the world she inhabits and its other inhabitants. As in her novel, Olive Kitteridge, Strout develops a character who is not everyone's cup of tea, but I am captivated by her. Each of the chapters is so moving that I felt I knew each character intimately. The two chapters that I found almost unbearably touching were the one where Olive's son and his family come for an incredibly uncomfortable visit and the one at the end where Olive enters an assisted living community and makes a new friend. This isn't my usual kind of novel as I tend more toward thrillers and psychological suspense, but I loved Olive, Again and give 5 big stars. My thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
PauletteB 25 days ago
I was very excited to get the opportunity to preview Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout and would like to thank Netgalley and Random House Publishing. I thoroughly enjoyed Olive Kitteredge and found Olive, Again to be just as good. This book's style is interesting, as it is a collection of stories about people in the town of Crosby, Maine. Once again, Olive is either the main character in the story, or she pops up as someone that once taught the main character, and in some stories, she is not included at all. Ms. Strout has an understanding of human nature and relationships as well as personality types that makes her writing fascinating to me. She has knowledge of the aging process which we experience along with Olive in this book. Olive maintains her cantankerous personality, but does exhibit some insights about various people around her and is even able to bend her thinking about her own son to some extent. I highly recommend this book, especially to anyone that enjoyed the original Olive book.
Anonymous 28 days ago
I love Olive Kitteridge, even though she is distinctly unlikeable. There is so much potential in her and at her advanced age she explores that potential. She This is a continuation of the town we first explored in Olive Kitteridge and Olive’s days and life after the first book ended. I would definitely read another book with Olive in it. She’s a cranky, crusty, but lovable curmudgeon, commonly misunderstood in her community. Pick it up. If you haven’t read the first book, what are you waiting for? Read that one and then grab this one. Another great by Ms. Strout! I was given an advanced readers copy of this book by the publisher and netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Denice_L 3 months ago
As I read this follow up to Olive Ketteridge, I again found myself identifying with many of these characters and their daily life's events. Elizabeth Strout writes of a community where everyone knows their neighbor and his business. In a life where secrets are rare, the conversations are often a dance between what you know and what you are not supposed to know....if that makes sense. A very easy book to read, you are immediately part of each story and have a vested interest in your neighbor's news. A great book for any reader, it's sure to be one of your favorites, too.
Duhtruth 3 months ago
Wonderful read. This is about real life. Strout has an interesting style. Characters come in and do unexpected things. Olive, a complex character, is woven into various roles as the stories progress. Olive learns about life and the fact that the things we think we know are challenged at different stages of our lives. Many things are beyond explanation. Change is the only certainty. Some think that the stories of Olive in Olive Kitteredge and Olive, Again are too depressing. I do not feel that way. The excellent writing of Elizabeth Strout expresses reality with its up and downs, highs and lows and unexpected twists and turns. Many of the stories were very thought provoking. I highly recommend both books.
Aqswr 3 months ago
Reading OLIVE, AGAIN is like visiting an old friend, one known for years but not often seen. She is well-drawn by author Elizabeth Strout, impossible to forget or imagine as anyone else. In this book, she is aged and aging and we are allowed to share in her surprises as she faces her newly found limitations and grace notes with uncommon insight and yes, frustration. Strout is an amazing writer but it is her ability to get inside her characters and inhabit them so fully that really makes her writing soar. And this book is truly a treat on all fronts. I can’t praise it enough. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
MaryND 4 months ago
Olive Kitteridge is back and just as cantankerous as ever in Elizabeth Strout’s new book, “Olive, Again.” I was a huge fan of “Olive Kitteridge” and this sequel does not disappoint—if anything, I thought it was even better. Picking up approximately where the earlier book left off and told in the same interwoven story style, “Olive, Again” delves into the lives of the inhabitants of Crosby, Maine—a teenager struggling with the death of her father; a woman battling cancer; a family finding reconciliation after a shocking revelation; a poet battling depression. Strout’s gift is in portraying the grace and dignity of these seemingly ordinary lives in a way that spotlights the universality and humanness of their struggles. But the star of the show, without a doubt, is Olive, whose brusque, straightforward and often difficult personality belies her bedrock decency. As she deals with her son Christopher, with her neighbors, and with the indignities inherent in getting old, Olive is always a joy, and her relationship with Jack Kennison, who opens the novel, is a delight. If you’ve read and enjoyed “Olive Kitteridge,” this book is a must read. If you haven’t, “Olive, Again” can stand alone, but you might want to start with the earlier book just to get the full scope of Olive’s story, as there are a few references made to events from it that will have more emotional resonance if you do. Highly recommended. Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review. I loved every page.
MamasGottaRead 4 months ago
Oh Olive! The fact that this sourpuss of a character grew on me is a testament to Ms. Strout's writing ability. However, I must admit that this was a more enjoyable read for me than the first installment of Olive Kitteredge. Olive softened in her old age, and became a joy to get to know. Elizabeth Strout made me laugh, made me cry, and made me truly ponder how I treat my children, my husband, and the rest of my family and friends. Olive Kitteridge lived her life never holding back judgment and was unapologetically blunt. Her ability to judge social cues was absolutely lacking. By the same token, she was incredibly astute and amusingly witty. While Strout provided her readers with an abundance of cringeworthy moments, these were softened by tender instances of realization, and were what ultimately endeared me to dear old Olive. Once again, we are presented with a melange of stories written about a myriad of characters, some familiar and some newly introduced. At first glance the stories seem so random, until one realizes a theme of loss and loneliness, and their connection back to Olive. Strout does a good job of continuing Olive's story with enough of a subdued summary that even readers who didn't read the first novel can enjoy it. Many thanks to Random House Publishing and NetGalley for gifting me with the advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review. Mamasgottaread.blogspot.com *** as an addendum, I should have pointed out that there are some highly sensitive topics that made me uncomfortable at times. One such story dealt with a young girl who cleaned the house of an older couple, and exhibited some very disturbing behavior in front of the husband. So although the novel really was an excellent read, I thought this is something I should mention.
Anonymous 4 months ago
I read Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Olive Kitteridge,” when it was published in 2008. I have been reading the author’s work ever since. Needless to say, I was delighted when I received an Advance Review Copy (ARC) of “Olive, Again.” As in the original novel, the sequel’s chapters read as interlinked short stories with recurring local characters in the same small town of Maine. Once again, in some way or another, Olive’s presence is always felt, even if she is not in the scene. In this follow up-book, Strout proves that she still is a powerful storyteller, especially when concentrating on the subtle complexities of human relationships. In “Again,” Olive is still an ornery and yet a loveable character. Now we follow her as she grows old, navigating the changes in her life. The novel begins with “Arrested,” which takes place right after the first novel ends. The 74-year-old widower, Jack, is courting 73-year-old Olive. Strout captures the surprise and depression one feels when they realize that they are now part of the invisible population of the elderly—alone and unseen. Strout captures the embarrassing details of the aging body as well. She writes this so well, you might find yourself looking down at the size of your own stomach. You will feel the delight of when a widow and widower find each other and, realize that they are no longer alone. You will also laugh out loud when reading how the couple comes to wonder that if maybe loneliness has its advantages. “Motherless Child” is a story about Olive and her son, Christopher, who was getting married in one of the stories in “Kitteridge.” Here he is married and has children and stepchildren of his own. We follow his family when they come to visit. Olive is excited to see her son and grandchildren. She is proud of herself when she thinks to make the kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The problem is that now Christopher and his family live in NYC and are accustomed to NYC living. They have become more sophisticated, or as Olive feels downright uppity. They are appalled with the measly sandwiches. Christopher and his wife whisper to each other, not aware that Olive can hear them, why didn’t she think of finer foods for their visit. Why did she just knit a scarf and not buy the grandkids proper gifts? Olive feels like a failure. The visit goes from bad to worse when she informs her son that his father, Henry, has been gone for years now and that she plans to get married again to Jack. The author shows us how class and stubbornness can change family dynamics, leaving the reader feeling very sad for the protagonist. “Labor” is wickedly funny. Olive goes to a baby shower. Never known for her patience, she keeps wondering how long she'll have to sit there. The reader can feel what she must be thinking: In her day, no one had such events. When having a baby, you received your family and friends’ hand-me-downs. Period. She is bored out of her mind. (Admit it, if you have ever been to a baby shower it can get tedious fast). In her typical quirky, direct manner she says all the wrong things. But when another guest, who is pregnant herself, goes into labor, it is Olive who delivers the baby. She is no longer bored. It may not be the most believable tale. Still, it is one of my favorites in the book. Stout ensures that her readers remember that bad can go to good in a heartbeat. All of the chapters/tales in the novel are written with humor and compassion.
Nancyadair 4 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.