Olive Kitteridge is subtitled a "novel in stories". Reading this book is like looking through a family photo album. Each short story is a snapshot portraying life in small town Maine. Strout expertly constructs each snapshot for us with her beautiful prose, adding layer upon layer, and often adding a slight twist at the end of the story which completely changes the picture we thought we were seeing into something we weren't quite expecting at all.
Olive is of course our title character but she isn't always the main character in each short story. In those stories where she is our main character, we get to spend a little time in the head of a woman who is struggling mightily to make sense of her life as she grows older and feels the world moving on without her. In some of the other stories Olive plays a secondary character, in others she's merely an extra in the scene, and in still others she's nothing more than a memory, but she does manage to show up, in some way, in each one. These other stories serve not only to introduce us to some of the other people in the town but also to show us the other sides of Olive's character, thereby letting the reader see that the way we see ourselves is not always the same way that others see us.