“Olive Kitteridge” Review

Elizabeth Strout’s novel Olive Kitteridge is much more a collection of short stories all revolving around, Olive Kitteridge.  Thirteen tales of life, love, loss, happiness, hautiness and hopefulness.  Mrs. Kitteridge is a schoolteacher in the small town of Crosby, Maine; she is married to the local pharmacist and raising one son, Christopher.   Proceeding chronologically through Olive’s lifetime, Olive Kitteridge explores the intricacies of small town life and the role of one woman (and her husband) in the lives of so many others.  From lovers, affairs of the heart, parenting, teaching to every other corner of life, this novel draws emotion from the everyday amblings of characters in Crosby Maine; it also touches on the extraordinary moments, both positive and negative, that we encounter through our lives.  Olive’s impact on her son, husband, students and fellow townspeople can be seen thoroughly through the course of the novel.

If you like a good novel, but are short on time or attention, in all likelihood this book is for you.  Strout draws on her own emotions through the course of life to write a novel that is “emotionally possible”; more so than that though, it is plausible.  Most importantly, we walk with Olive through the phases of life (including the many phases of love).  We see her through tragedy, triumph and the wears of everyday life.

“But here they were, and Olive pictured two slices of Swiss cheese pressed together, such holes they brought to this union – what pieces of life took out of you”   ~Elizabeth Strout

Copyright 2011: Reads of a Ragger. All rights reserved. No unauthorized use permitted; all derivative works must have prior approval.

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Why do we read?

Why do we read?

When reading for pleasure, why do we read?  Is it the idea that a book can take us to another place and time; or is it merely the thought that we can, if not momentarily, leave the here and now?  Wouldn’t watching a movie have a similar effect?  Yet time after time, I find myself drawn into a book.  A paper book, no Kindle, Nook or e-Reader for me.  I like the feel of the paper in my hands as I turn the page.  The texture of the words on the page and the page itself jump out on me as I run my finger under a line to text to re-read.  My hand and forearm sometimes get sore from fighting the binding of the book to keep it open– somehow I like that.  I woudn’t trade it in for a piece of plastic with a screen.  I’m drawn to the way I can feel myself holding the book in the hear and now but my mind is elsewhere.  Maybe my mind is far away in Biblical Egypt, in the midst of the battle of Gettysburg, the jungles of Vietnam, 100 years in the futre.  Or maybe, just maybe, my mind is at a magical school for witches and wizards in the present day– one that lives in the imaginations of people all over the world.

I read for the same reason I write.  Both of these activities allow me to go to another place and time while maintaining as little or as much of my presence in the here and now as I care to.

Copyright 2011: Reads Of A Ragger. All rights reserved. No unauthorized use permitted; all derivative works must have prior approval.

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“The Red Tent” Review

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is a dynamic novel telling the fictionalized account of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, granddaughter of Issac and Rebecca and great-granddaughter of Abrahm and Sarai.  Issac, of course, is the Issac that was nearly sacrificed by his father Abrahm before the god El saved him.  In addition to the human characters, the red tent itself plays in intricate role in this story and is, perhaps, the reason we have the story.

The story is as familiar as it is foreign.  Genisis 34 tells the biblical version of events, <http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/joshua/gen34.stm>, though true events as told in the Old Testament varies greatly from the creative liscence taken by Diamant.  Dinah’s story in The Red Tent is told from her perspective and spans the time before her conception until after the time of her death.  It’s easy to be swept up in Dinah’s travels, both emotional and physical.  Probing the roles of women as wives, mothers, servants and queens in the times of the Old Testament– the day to day life goes on even through the births and deaths of children, spouses, family and friends.  The day to day life is put on hold only around the new moon, when the women enter the red tent.  The loves and losses, tragedies and trimphs and overwhelming sense of humanity in all characters fill this book with emotion.

Definitely geared towards female readers, this book will make you blush, laugh and cry.  The kinship of women is explored and will leave you wondering about the heartstrength of the women in your ancestry.


Copyright 2011: Reads of a Ragger. All rights reserved. No unauthorized use permitted; all derivative works must have prior approval.

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“The Killer Angels” Review

I recently finished reading The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.  I stumbled upon this book on a dusty bookshelf in my house, but I know it came from my Grandma’s house.  Shaara details the fictionalized accounts of several top generals from the battle of Gettysburg.  Robert E. Lee, the most well known of the novel, accompanied by James Longstreet, Lawrence Chamberlain, John Buford and a half dozen other lesser troops.

The book details the days of June 29, 1863 through July 3, 1863, sharing the intimate details  from the perspective of several major characters.  More than a typical war story of blood and guts, cowardice and valor,  Shaara discusses the emotions in play as the men wearing blue and the men wearing grey prepare to take up arms against each other one another.  Not only were they fighting an opposing army, they were fighting against the very men they had fought beside on behalf of the United States of America.  In a poignant moment, a mans final thoughts are of a man he once fought beside, but moments ago lead his men in attack against.  Amid undertones of loyalty, legacy and purpose, a question of what the war was really all about shines through.  We see conflict in personality and strategy between men and their superiors and the comradarie that complicates it all.


Copyright 2011: Reads of a Ragger. All rights reserved. No unauthorized use permitted; all derivative works must have prior approval.

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