Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

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First off how good is the minimalist cover of Olive Kitteridge? I really thought I got lucky with this edition not just because I love lighthouses.

I have been delaying talking about Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge because I read it within a month of my grandfather’s death. Saying we were very close would be an understatement. At first the book hurt terribly. I thought I knew heartbreak and then life decides to say ha let me show you how you wrong you are! Initially, you want to escape the pain not experience it more deeply. But then the latter is more cathartic in the long run, and you start to heal when you realize this is the way of the world. We are all connected by loss, love and longing.

I was astounded by Elizabeth Strout’s writing. There’s a kind of gentleness about the everyday life she writes about. It is never banal. I never thought everyday life could be written about so poignantly and have such an immediacy to it. Ordinary people, everyday entanglements and normal lives in the hands of a gifted writer makes for a compelling narrative.

Henry Kitteridge, the husband of Olive Kitteridge, reminded me of my grandfather – kind and affable, never wanting to make a fuss and trying his best to be in harmony with what is.

Possible spoilers ahead.

Olive Kitteridge is the portrait of a long marriage and of an only child’s failed relationship with his parents. It is learning that marriage cannot alleviate your loneliness completely even though you are bound together for life. It is about the deterioration and fatigue that sets in old age. It is about finding companionship when you least expect it. It is about tender unexpected love that has no name but which gushes forth without caring if it’s appropriate. It is a deep yearning to be connected yet unable to bridge the gap.

It is about the truth and being straightforward being the kinder way in some cases. It is about the meek and submissive becoming vile when it is they who wield the power.

It is about small things, things of no apparent consequence and almost invisible to others, having the capacity to cause such tremendous heartbreak that it takes you by surprise.

It is about compassion lurking under battle hardened hearts and letting go of judgement, living with everything as is. It is being true to yourself above all because in the end when Death is coming for you, that’s all that matters.

Olive Kitteridge showed me all that and more. I could identify with many things. Things I didn’t know I felt, things I suppressed because they weren’t important in the scheme of day to day living. And there were things I could foresee myself identifying with in the future. When a book does that you know it’s a keeper.

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Pixar’s Inside Out

Have you ever wondered what goes on in somebody’s head? Inside Out began with this question. We are introduced to Riley (the protagonist) and her emotions. Riley is 11 and has just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco with her parents. We see how the move affects her through her emotions, which have distinct personalities of their own.

Joy is yellow, thin and skipping with energy radiating happiness. Sadness is blue, fat with large eyes covered by large round glasses. She is always miserable and feels tired at the thought of doing anything (down in the dumps quite literally). She’s my favourite emotion, and contrary to her name, provided the audience with a lot of laughs. Fear is thin, short and scared of anything and everything, choosing the coward’s way in a situation, and speaks in a nervous voice. Anger is red, short and bursts into flames when driven over the edge. Disgust is a green (reminded me of jealousy) with girly hair and curled eye lashes. They have got the nuances right in the brilliant voice overs and their physical appearances.

But there is no Confusion as pointed out by another movie goer. Maybe it will be introduced once Riley attains puberty. Desperately hoping for a sequel!

Joy tries hard to make the transition of Riley smooth. Moving is never easy. You can’t be done with the old and in with the new instantly. Settling in takes time.

Sadness touches a core memory and brings on mayhem. Joy has a very low opinion of Sadness and sees her as a dark blip on her sunny radar but realizes her importance in making memories and life what it is. At first it appears they couldn’t be more different but the well being of Riley is what they have in common.

Joy and Sadness go on a rescue mission to save Riley. With them gone Riley feels numb. The other emotions realize they made a big mistake listening to Anger who goaded them into doing something drastic to make Riley happy. Do Joy and Sadness reach in time to save the day? Watch Inside Out to find out.

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