Writers Who Read

6 September 2020

Olive, Again
by Elizabeth Strout

Author/Publisher Intent

Stylistic Choices

Structure, Pacing

Climax - what changed?

Scene sleuthing

Olive, Again

  • Marketing: Saga Fiction, Literary Saga, Humorous Literary Fiction
  • Genre: Realistic Modern-Day Mini-Plot Long-Form
  • Word count: 94,264
  • Print Pages: 293
  • Reading Level: 6th-7th grade

  • Tense: Past
  • POV: Multiple

  • Publish date: October 15, 2019
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Sold By: Random House

  • Elizabeth Strout

    Born in Portland, Maine
    Admires the short stories of William Trevor
    1st of her 7 novels published at age 42

  • - Amy and Isabelle (1998) - made into a movie; nominated for Orange Prize & PEN/Faulkner Award
  • - Abide with Me (2006)
  • - Olive Kitteridge (2008) - Pulitzer Prize, HBO miniseries
  • - The Burgess Boys (2013)
  • - My Name is Lucy Barton (2016)
  • [only novel in 1st person]
  • - Anything is Possible (2017) - The Story Prize

“...I don’t write from beginning to end...and I have learned over the years to write in scenes. And that the scenes, if they’re good enough, will eventually connect with each other. So I never worry about plot, ‘cause it just will happen. And it’s also just an awful word.”
- Elizabeth Strout

Strout cares about words (say them three times and they're yours)

    Rump / hind end
    Poopy Panties
    Hells bells
    Frenchie / Franco / peasant
    Phooey to you!
    Farts ("Oh, Jack, you know I hate that word.")
  • A particular word used for comedic effect

    And then she said, “Oh, shit. Honest to Christ,” she said. “For fuck’s sake.” The woman’s face went away. “Yoo-hoo,” said Olive. “Hey, yoo-hoo. Excuse me, I have no idea why I said ‘shit.’ I never say ‘shit.’ I hate the word ‘shit.’ ” No one seemed to hear this, though she could hear voices nearby. “All right,” said Olive, “I’m going back now.” She closed her eyes, but the beeping continued. “Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she said.


  • Transitions within voice

    (within Heart chapter)

  • (...and then Strout got scared she went too far...)
  • Strout making it clear this is Olive's voice, not hers

Sentiment Analysis

Around the Table

Please use passages from the book

Writers Who Read: Coming Up

October 4: The Testaments (2019) - Margaret Atwood
November 1: Weather (2020) - Jenny Offill
December 6: The Nickel Boys (2019) - Colson Whitehead

Thanks to: Boulder Writers Alliance

Contact Gary: hello@garyalanmcbride.com
Literary Forensics Resources