Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
I always wait until the last week to read the selections for my book group, so they'll be fresh in my mind. That means I often hear a bit about the books before I read them. The words that I was hearing about Olive were ones like "sad" and "depressing." After reading it, though, I came to a different conclusion. I think it may be due to age.
If I were young, I think I would have found these interwoven tales sad myself. They certainly are not happy stories of lives full of promise, love fulfilled, relationships healed. No. They tell the stories of mostly older people, middle aged and elderly, who have loved imperfectly, sometimes quite badly, who have been hurt and who have hurt. No marriage was perfect. No parent without fault. No one ever quite overcame their past. Never. Yet, they loved. They reached out to help those who needed it. They were bruised, but not beaten, not hardened against each other. Not unwilling to love.
I think, to the young, that sounds just awful, like giving up, like settling for less. I think with age, we recognize that our love is not perfect, and choosing it anyway is not settling for less, it is acknowledging our humanity and forgiving each other for it. The hardships, both those we inflict and those inflicted upon us, can make us retreat from people or can create compassion for others in their sufferings. Love need not diminish. It does, sometimes, but it need not. That, for me, is not depressing.