Picks and Pans Review: Olive Kitteridge

updated 04/14/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/14/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Elizabeth Strout |

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Thinking back on her first meeting with a man she loved but never left her marriage for, Olive Kitteridge—the curmudgeonly matron at the center of these interconnected stories— remembers "the sensation that she had been seen," Strout writes. "And she had not even known she'd felt invisible." Most of the Crosby, Maine, residents who populate this resonant collection might say the same: Olive's pharmacist-husband, Henry, who falls for his shy assistant; their neighbor Harmon, whose affair with a local widow turns from "a shared interest, like bird-watching" into full-blown love. Yet infidelity is only tangentially Strout's subject: Her themes are how incompletely we know one another, how "desperately hard every person in the world [is] working to get what they need," and the redemptive power in little things—a shared memory, a shock of tulips. Her lovely book is one of those.

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