I had just finished reading and enjoying “Olive, Again” when I read the critical (and really confusing) Maine Voices column by Rhea Côté Robbins in your Jan. 11 paper.

Her allegation that the book spreads anti-Franco prejudice reminds me of charges that newspapers are “too negative” because they print stories about crimes and accidents. Bad things happen, ugly attitudes exist and novelists, like journalists, write about them. Elizabeth Strout writes better than most writers I can think of.

But in this book, she isn’t really writing about prejudice but about a cranky old lady and the fictional Maine community where she lives. Olive Kitteridge is blunt and tactless toward everyone, Franco or not.

Ironically, if you read Robbins’ column online and click on the link in the sentence about Olive’s neighbor, who had been called “Frenchie,” you see a passage in which a young man gives his father a hard time for having tolerated that nickname in the past. And the son cites Olive’s words when she was his teacher: She said that America is a melting pot that hasn’t melted. I took that to mean that she accepted differences. She certainly accepted the Somali woman who came to take care of her in her old age.

Maybe Rhea Côté Robbins should try reading the book again.

Gail Burnett


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: