Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Olive Kitterige

I just finished this book and it's wonderful. Stunning. Sometimes I read something and then I just have to go in the corner and cry for a few minutes because it's that good, and because I'll never write anything half so good, so generous to the characters. I'm no fan of collections of linked stories, but this one is worth it. 

The most chilling story is called "Tulips."

It starts like this:

People thought the Larking couple would move after that happened. But they didn't move--perhaps they had nowhere to go. Their blinds remained drawn, however, day and night. Although sometimes in the dusk of winter, Roger Larkin would be found shoveling his driveway. Or in the summer, after the grass got high and sad-looking, you might find him out mowing the lawn. In both cases he wore a hat far down over his face and never looked up when someone drove by. Louise, there was never any sight of at all. Apparently, she'd been in a hospital down in Boston for a while--the daughter lived near Boston, so that would make sense--but Mary Blackwell, who was an X-ray technician in Portland, said Louise had spent time in the hospital there. What was interesting was that Mary was criticized for reporting this, even though at the time, there wasn't a soul in town who wouldn't have chopped off a baby finger for news of any kind. But there was that small outpouring against Mary.

At this point in the story, there isn't a reader who wouldn't chop off a baby finger to find out what's going on with these two. The rest of the story is worth the wait.