Monday, February 3, 2014

On My Shelf, Olive Kitteridge

The majority of what I read is dictated by outside sources. This in no way slows my need to buy books but they accumulate in stacks around our apartment, waiting patiently to be read. My husband cringes with every single addition, so certain that we are sinking into the frozen Chicago tundra below.

First on the list, books my girls read in class, to better understand what they are studying, enabling me to discuss the details of Peak's relationship with his father (Peak, by Roland Smith). Earlier this year they read Flipped, by Wendelin Van Draanen, a book I love, a book I highly recommend, as do the girls. Flipped is a wonderful jumping off place for discussions about perspective and seeing the world from another point of view.

I read books for the online book review group From Left to Write, books that are mailed to me from the publisher, my choice from two options. Next up, Prayers for the Stolen, by Jennifer Clement. Book review date is February 18th, and while I am only a few chapters in, it's an interesting and quirky book about, thus far, childhood in Mexico. Given that I stretch my biography to include a Mexican childhood, I'm fascinated.

Over break I read Eleanor and Park (Rainbow Rowell), Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Benjamin Alire Saenz), and The Fault in Our Stars (John Green), all in an effort to keep up with the young adult books being checked out by the students at my day job, the volunteer librarian gig. If this is what is being written for, and read by, students, things are looking up. 

Last week I had exhausted my stash of obligatory book selections. Next to my bed, where it has been for over one year, sat Olive Kitteridge, (Elizabeth Strout), a book handed to me by my wonderful aunt whose opinion on books, and all matters, I respect greatly. Passages of this book were used to discuss character development in my writing group where one member, now my favorite person around the table, suggested that my writing style is similar to Elizabeth Strout's. Having only read one small part of the story, I had no idea what high praise this was. The book was begging to be read.

My children are learning to write in their fourth grade language arts class. They are being taught to build to a conflict and then work to find a resolution in their stories. They are nine and learning to use language to describe everyday events within a constricting framework, designed to teach them how to effectively tell a story. At nine they need the guidelines, the structure, to compel a reader to continue.  Elizabeth Strout sailed through this part of fourth grade and found her voice, not in the conflict, but in the words and story, with no need to tell us more than what happens in this small town on the coast of Maine, on any given day. I emailed the teacher, "can you teach my children to write like this?".

Olive Kitteridge is now forever one of my favorite characters, I miss her terribly even though I don't think I cared for her very much. Best to read it now, HBO pictures has a mini series in the works, Olive Kitteridge brought to life. I'll watch, just to check in, but I think I like her best in my head, as I see her, as Elizabeth Strout drew her so beautifully for me.

Included are several links to Amazon for the books referenced, my feeling being that Amazon is a wonderful resource for reading about and discovering new books. That said, I encourage all to  support local booksellers whenever possible, after you do your Amazon research.

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