Olive Kitteridge

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Olive Kitteridge
Olive-kitteridge l.jpg
First edition hardcover
AuthorElizabeth Strout
CountryUnited States
SeriesOlive Kitteridge
Release number
GenreShort stories
Set inCrosby, Maine
PublisherRandom House
Publication date
March 25, 2008
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages288 pages
813/.54 22
LC ClassPS3569.T736 O5 2008
Followed byOlive, Again 

Olive Kitteridge (2008) is a novel by American author Elizabeth Strout. It presents a portrait of the title character and a number of recurring characters in the coastal town of Crosby, Maine. It takes the form of 13 short stories that are interrelated but discontinuous in terms of narrative.

It won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award. HBO produced a four-part mini-series, based on the novel, featuring Frances McDormand in the title role, which aired on November 2 and 3, 2014.[1][2][3] The series won eight awards at the 2015 Primetime Emmys.[4] A sequel to the novel, titled Olive, Again, was published in October 2019.[5]



Henry Kitteridge, the pharmacist of the town of Crosby, reflects back on a time when he employed the timid newlywed Denise Thibodeau. Denise's husband is also named Henry and Henry Kitteridge feels affection for Denise, whose personality he finds similar to his own, and her husband who bears his name. When Denise's husband dies in a freak hunting accident Henry takes Denise under his wing and tries to help her rebuild her life. The two have an emotional affair and Henry daydreams of taking care of Denise though he still loves his cantankerous wife Olive and can't conceive of leaving her. Jerry McCarthy, the delivery boy who is slightly younger than Denise, eventually proposes to her and Henry urges her to accept. Denise and Jerry move to Texas and do not appear to have a good marriage. Denise maintains contact with Henry through a yearly birthday letter. Receiving a letter from her decades later, Henry notes that Denise has finally signed "love".

"Incoming Tide"[edit]

A now adult Kevin Coulson returns to Crosby after a long absence. He reflects on how he has not been in town since he was 13 and he plans to go to his childhood home and commit suicide, visiting the dock before he does so. While sitting in his car he is approached by Olive Kitteridge, his former math teacher, who enters his car and speaks to him frankly about his mother's suicide years before and her own father's suicide following a long depression. Spending time with Olive, Kevin begins to feel some reluctance to go through with his plan. During the course of their conversation, Olive notices that a former classmate of Kevin's, Patty Howe, has fallen in the rapidly rising water. Kevin jumps into the water and manages to prevent Patty from drowning and the two hold on to one another as they wait for proper help to arrive.

"The Piano Player"[edit]

Angie O'Meara is a self-taught piano prodigy in her 50s who performs at the Warehouse Bar and Grill. Angie is an alcoholic who can only perform in front of people when she is drunk. One winter evening she sees her ex-boyfriend Simon has come to see her and during the intermission calls her married lover, Malcolm, and breaks off their relationship. Simon later speaks to Angie to tell her that after they broke up her mother, a prostitute, followed Simon and propositioned him. Though she is upset Angie realizes that Simon must be lashing out due to his dissatisfaction with his own life.

"A Little Burst"[edit]

Olive's only child, Christopher, finally marries at the age of 38. Olive finds the wedding overwhelming since she is very close to Chris. Lying down in his bedroom she overhears his new bride, Sue, making fun of the dress Olive is wearing, which Olive genuinely likes, and implying that Olive is difficult. Infuriated, Olive steals one of Sue's bras, a shoe, and ruins one of her sweaters with a marker, giving her a little burst of happiness of the kind Olive depends on to make her life worth living.


Harmon, who runs the local hardware store, begins a purely sexual affair with the widow Daisy Foster after his wife, Bonnie, informs him she is no longer interested in sex. Harmon witnesses local boy Tim Burnham and his girlfriend Nina White and is intrigued by their loose attitudes towards drugs and sex and the prospect of new love. Eventually Tim leaves Nina who goes to Daisy for help and reveals she suffers from anorexia. Olive Kitteridge, Harmon and Daisy all try to help Nina, but she eventually suffers a relapse and dies. Their time spent worrying over Nina causes Harmon to realize he is in love with Daisy and he rents the house that Tim and Nina once stayed in, preparing to eventually leave Bonnie to be with Daisy.

"A Different Road"[edit]

A divide appears between Henry and Olive causing Olive to reflect back on a year earlier when she stopped at a small hospital emergency room to use their bathroom. Despite feeling nothing wrong with her she was persuaded first by the nurse and then the doctor to disrobe for an exam. The delay meant that Olive and Henry were there when two young men invaded the hospital looking for drugs. Held hostage alongside the nurse and the doctor, Henry and Olive devolved into a fight with Olive disparaging Henry's mother and Henry taking the nurse's side when Olive rebuked her for praying. After being rescued tensions remain between the couple and Olive reflects that it was not the trauma that has upset the couple, but what their reactions under crisis revealed to them about one another.

"Winter Concert"[edit]

At a concert Jane and Bob Houlton, a retired couple, run into the parents of their daughter's friends. Jane reflects on the fact that she knows that one of their daughters had an abortion, something the parents might not be aware of. While they are talking, the couple mention seeing Bob at an airport in Miami. Going home Jane confronts Bob about the situation and he admits that 4 years earlier his former mistress had contacted him because she had breast cancer. Jane is upset, particularly since she realizes that the betrayal comes at a time when they have so little life left with one another.


Shortly after getting married, Olive's son Chris and his new wife move to California causing heartache for Olive and her husband Henry. After a year of marriage Chris announces that he and his wife are divorcing but he will be staying in California. The two try to adjust to retired life without their son, but Henry suffers a stroke which leaves him unresponsive forcing him to move to a care home. Olive finds herself contemplating suicide now that she lives alone. After receiving a condolence note from the shut-in Louise Larkin, Olive goes to visit her. Louise and her husband have become shut-ins after their son Doyle murdered a woman by stabbing her 29 times. Louise talks about suicide with Olive and mocks her for lying to make her life appear better than it is. Shortly after while visiting Henry, Olive gives him "permission" to die but he continues to live.

"Basket of Trips"[edit]

Olive helps set up the wake of Ed Bonney, the husband of one of her students, since this is something Henry would have done were he well. During the wake Kerry Monroe, the cousin of the widow Marlene, gets drunk and makes a scene. Olive later finds Marlene in a bedroom with Kerry who is passed out. Marlene confesses to Olive that since Ed died, Kerry has confessed to both Marlene and her son that Kerry once had an affair with Ed. She also asks Olive to dispose of a basket filled with pamphlets for vacation packages which Marlene now feels ashamed to look at, knowing that she was deluded to think Ed would still be able to travel during his illness.

"Ship in a Bottle"[edit]

Winnie's sister Julie is left at the altar by her boyfriend Bruce. Bruce tells Julie he wants to continue dating, but not get married. Julie's mother Anita threatens to kill Bruce and disown Julie if she goes back to him. Nevertheless, Julie leaves on a bus to go to Boston to reunite with Bruce. Anita finds a note Julie wrote Winnie asking her to stall their parents so they wouldn't find out and Winnie realizes that something between her and her mother is now broken.


Chris has married a second time and is now living in New York City. He asks Olive to visit and she goes, realizing that Chris's claim that he only wants to see her is a pretext to get her to help out with his wife's two young children from previous relationships. Olive dislikes Chris's new wife Ann who both smokes and drinks while pregnant, but does her best to help out. Returning home from a trip to get ice cream, Olive is offended when she realizes that she dripped sauce on herself and her son didn't inform her or help clean her up. She tells Chris she wants to leave and the two have a fight with Chris telling Olive she has a terrible temper. Olive goes home early with neither her son nor daughter-in-law taking her to the airport.


Rebecca Brown, the daughter of a minister, starts to develop kleptomania after her father's death and fantasizes about burning things.


A year or so after Henry's death, Olive meets widower Jack Kennison a former professor who retired in Crosby after she finds him having fainted on a walking path. Olive and Jack build up a friendship that slowly blossoms into romance though Olive is outraged when she finds out Jack is a Republican who voted for George W. Bush. The two eventually reunite and Olive begins a new relationship with him realizing she has found a reason to live again.


The Kitteridge Family

  • Olive Kitteridge – an abrasive junior high school math teacher, later a volunteer for a variety of organizations including the American Red Cross and a museum in Portland, Maine.
  • Henry Kitteridge – Olive's husband, Crosby's town pharmacist.
  • Pauline Kitteridge – Henry's mother. She and Olive had a bad relationship.
  • Ora – Olive's aunt.
  • Christopher "Chris" Kitteridge – Olive and Henry's son, a podiatrist.
  • Dr. Suzanne "Sue" Bernstein-Kitteridge – Chris's first wife, Jewish, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, persuades him to leave Crosby and move to California, they divorce soon thereafter.
  • Ann Kitteridge – Chris's second wife, met in a support group for divorcees, encourages him to follow their therapist to New York City.
  • Theodore – Ann's son by her first marriage.
  • Annabelle – Ann's daughter, father never identified, apparently the result of a fling after her divorce.

The Thibodeau/McCarthy Family

  • Denise Thibodeau – works at Henry Kitteridge's pharmacy, the not-so-secret object of his affection.
  • Henry Thibodeau – Denise's first husband, a former football hero, works as a plumber, killed in a hunting accident by his best friend Tony Kuzio.
  • Jerry McCarthy – overweight delivery boy at the pharmacy, eventually becomes Denise's second husband, they move to Texas.
  • Paul McCarthy – Jerry and Denise's teenaged son, obese like his father.

Lounge Patrons and Employees

  • Angela "Angie" O'Meara – alcoholic piano player.
  • Malcolm Moody – Crosby's first selectman, having an extramarital affair with Angie.
  • Joe – bartender.
  • Betty – waitress.
  • Walter Dalton – alcoholic regular, former college professor, Malcom Moody calls him a "fairy."
  • Simon – Angie's former boyfriend, also a piano player, left her to become a real estate lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Foster Connections

  • Daisy Foster – goes to church with Henry Kitteridge (whereas Olive will not).
  • Copper Foster – Daisy's deceased husband, a policeman.
  • Harmon – surname never given, owns hardware store, has an affair with Daisy.
  • Bonnie – Harmon's wife, he eventually leaves her for Daisy. They have 4 adult sons, but only two are named.
  • Kevin – One of Harmon and Bonnie's sons, he keeps in closest contact with his parents.
  • Derrick – Another of Harmon and Bonnie's sons, more aloof.
  • Martha – Kevin's wife, a vegetarian.

The Burnham Connections

  • Timothy "Tim" Burnham – sawmill worker, busted for growing marijuana.
  • Nina White – Tim's girlfriend, suffers from anorexia, Daisy Foster, Harmon and Olive all try to help her, eventually dies in treatment.
  • Victoria – Nina's friend who eventually steals Tim from her and worsens her eating disorder.
  • Kathleen Burnham – Tim's aunt.

The Houlton Family

The Granger Family

  • Alan Granger – he and his wife are called "The Lydias" by the Houlton family, because their connection is through their daughter.
  • Donna Granger – the other half of "The Lydias," has eye lift surgery that Jane Houlton finds disturbing.
  • Lydia Granger – Alan and Donna's daughter, married a veterinarian who bit her.
  • Patty Granger – another daughter of Alan and Donna.

The Larkin Family

  • Roger Larkin – a banker.
  • Louise Larkin – Roger's wife, a guidance counselor at Olive's school, undergoes shock therapy in Portland.
  • Doyle Larkin – Roger and Louise's son, murders a woman by stabbing her repeatedly.

The Monroe-Bonney Family

  • Marlene Monroe Bonney – Olive's former student, also mentioned as a customer at Harmon's hardware store.
  • Ed Bonney – Marlene's high school sweetheart and eventual husband, owns a grocery, dies after a lengthy illness.
  • Eddie Bonney – Marlene and Ed's son, serves in the United States Coast Guard.
  • Lee Ann Bonney – Marlene and Ed's daughter, studying to become a nurse.
  • Cheryl Bonney – Marlene and Ed's younger daughter.
  • Kerry Monroe – Marlene's cousin, gets in trouble with the law, briefly tries to seduce Chris Kitteridge, an alcoholic, gets a job at the Bonney grocery, seduces Ed (which she reveals at his funeral before passing out).

The Harwood Family

  • Anita Harwood – cashier at hospital coffee shop, former "Miss Potato Queen".
  • Jim/Jimmy Harwood – Anita's husband, school janitor, recovering alcoholic.
  • Winnifred "Winnie" Harwood – Anita and Jim's daughter.
  • Julie – Anita's daughter by her first marriage, one of Olive's former students.
  • Kyle – Winnie's uncle, evidently Anita's brother, supplies the family with tranquilizers.
  • Ted – Anita's first husband, Julie's father, a carpenter.
  • Bruce – Julie's fiancé who jilts her on their wedding day, a vacationer from Boston who rented a cottage with his brothers.

The Brown-Caskey Family

  • Rebecca Brown – one of Olive's former students, a kleptomaniac who can't get a job.
  • David – Rebecca's live-in boyfriend.
  • Rev. Carleton Brown – Rebecca's father.
  • Charlotte Caskey Brown – Rebecca's mother, abandons her family, moves to Tarzana, California where she becomes a follower of Scientology.
  • Katherine Caskey – Rebecca's aunt.
  • Rev. Tyler Caskey – Rebecca's grandfather, a Congregational minister.


  • Bob Beane – encountered Angie O'Meara's ex-boyfriend Simon in Boston.
  • Andrea Bibber – one of Olive's former students, a Social Worker
  • Cynthia Bibber – Andrea's mother, suggests Olive and Henry are depressed after hospital incident.
  • Mary Blackwell – indiscreet nurse who revealed Louise Larkin had undergone shock treatments at the hospital where she used to work in Portland, later takes a job at a local nursing home.
  • Susan Bradford – attends Ed Bonney's funeral.
  • Emily Buck – postal clerk.
  • Cindy – Henry Kitteridge's nurse at the assisted living facility after he has a stroke.
  • Molly Collins – home economics teacher, she and Olive help Marlene Bonney host a reception after her husband's funeral.
  • Candy Connelly – Harmon's fourth grade crush.
  • Harry Coombs – died of lymphoma.
  • Dr. Kevin Coulson – returns from New York to commit suicide, impulse interrupted by a visit with Olive and a near drowning.
  • Bessie Davis – old maid, frequent customer at Harmon's hardware store, lonely, talks too much.
  • Mrs. Granger – cantankerous employee at Henry Kitteridge's pharmacy, dies in her sleep, replaced by Denise Thibodeau.
  • Matt Grearson – attends Ed Bonney's funeral.
  • Cecil Green – "slow", he brings coffee and donuts to the reporters who hover around the Larkin home after Doyle murders a woman.
  • Patty Crane Howe – waitress at the marina, recently miscarried, almost drowns but is rescued by Kevin Coulson and Olive.
  • Rachel Jones – gets Valium from Henry Kitteridge after her husband leaves her.
  • Jack Kennison – stuffy Harvard graduate, retired in Crosby with wife, they have one daughter (unnamed) who is a lesbian and lives in California, he and Olive begin dating after they are both widowed, she is shocked to discover he is a Republican.
  • Mrs. Kettleworth – Daisy Foster stole a pear from her front yard when she was a child.
  • Tony Kuzio – Henry Thibodeau's lifelong friend, kills him in a hunting accident.
  • Miss Lampley – Chris Kitteridge's first grade teacher.
  • Beth Marden – operates a nursery school, Julie's former employer.
  • Donny Madden – attends Ed Bonney's funeral.
  • Greg Marston – buys ball bearings at Harmon's hardware store.
  • Mrs. Merriman – gets her blood pressure medicine at Henry Kitteridge's pharmacy.
  • Cliff Mott – suffering from heart disease but still shovels snow.
  • Bill Newton – friend of Henry and Olive Kitteridge.
  • Bunny Newton – Bill's wife, Olive's confidant.
  • Karen Newton – Bill and Bunny's daughter, cheats on her husband Eddie.
  • Jim O'Casey – taught at junior high school with Olive, he picked her and Chris up every morning to drive them to school, spoke of leaving their spouses and running away together but he died in an automobile accident, perhaps while drunk, before acting on this impulse.
  • Wayne Roote – suffers from dementia.
  • Betty Simms – close neighbor of Olive and Henry, had five children.
  • Mrs. Tibbets – gets erythromycin prescription filled at Henry Kitteridge's pharmacy.
  • Les Washburn – landlord, rents a house first to Tim Burnham and Nina White, but evicts them after a pot bust, later rents the same house to Daisy Foster and Harmon.


  1. ^ "HBO Confirms Nov. 2 and 3 Debut for Miniseries 'Olive Kitteridge'". 29 August 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  2. ^ Bibel, Sara (July 10, 2014). "HBO Miniseries 'Olive Kitteridge' Starring Frances McDormand & Richard Jenkins to Premiere This Winter" (Press release). TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  3. ^ MA Film Office announces HBO and Playtone filming 4-part miniseries on North Shore this fall, August 29, 2013, accessed November 13, 2013
  4. ^ CNN, Brandon Griggs. "'Olive Kitteridge,' 'Game of Thrones' big Emmy winners". Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  5. ^ Weaver, Kendal (October 14, 2019). "New stories of an aging Olive in 'Olive, Again'". Associated Press. Retrieved October 19, 2019.

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