Category Archives: Older Protagonist

Olive, Again

Thoughts by Elizabeth Strout, 2019, 289 pages

Challenge: Book Club
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Bookstore purchase / the Concord Bookshop (MA)
 Why I read this now:  Suggested, had on my shelf

MOTIVATION for READING: I loved Olive Kitteridge. 

Almost 11 years ago to the day, I posted my review of Olive, book 1. I adored it.

… the reader will come to appreciate this rough and tough yet tender lady.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  This is another collection very similar to the first, of short stories either centering on Olive or has her barely mentioned in passing.

I loved the stories with Jack, and how he succumbs to the realization that he enjoys Olive and so takes the chance on a relationship. The way he lets her sit in business class on the flight to Norway was just too perfect. The chapter on the Larkins and their attorney was a gut-punch. As was the one where Olive meets the Poet.

THOUGHTS: Themes of loneliness and knowing yourself. I just love how Olive is so abrupt and blunt and judgmental but also knows the exact right thing to do or say when it is most needed. She is definitely prickly. I laugh at her, with her? and I cried.

RATING: Five slices of pie. No pie mentioned, but that’s OK. I’ll forgive.

No, I still haven’t seen the mini-series starring Frances McDormand…




Copyright © 2007-2020. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Story of My Teeth

Thoughts tsomtbyvl The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, Coffee House Press 2015 (orig 2013), 184 pages

Translated from Spanish to English by Christina MacSweeney.

Challenge: The last of my Rooster reading attempts… til I try anticipating what might make the short list of NEXT year!
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Tradeback/Library 14 day loan, extended (since no one was waiting for it.)
 Why I read this now: it’s March! It’s TOB!! It’s the ROOSTER!!!

MOTIVATION for READING: Upon first hearing of this book, I didn’t think I was interested but as the TOB commentary remarked on its novelty AND that the character is one of an elderly persuasion (I love the cranky old geezer and lady who wears purple), I put it on hold at the library. I really do think I might have placed ALL the short list on hold at the library but I am wondering if some weren’t available at the initial time frame of “short list”. I don’t make very accurate records on such.

ALSO, there are aspects about this book that are beyond the story of the book. Will explain soon.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: It’s funny and sad. Our protagonist is an auctioneer who has perfected — nay, made an art form — of the STORY that goes along with an item that is auctioned. Indeed, believes the story attached to the item makes the item more valuable. This book is about art, the value of art and the value of stories. Highway (nickname for our auctioneer protag) has a son and a long life travel story, and an interesting ‘collection’ from his travels over those years… He is given one last auction opportunity to test his story-value-makes-the-item theory. His collection, his ultimate collection, is teeth of famous people.

This book is tremendously artful and creative. It will appeal to an artful creative kind of reader.

WHAT’s GOOD: It’s funny and sad. Highway is a believer.

What’s NOT so good: It’s funny and sad. Highway has to deal with life. It is, yes, so very odd. It is cerebral, it is creative, it is confusing and fascinating.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I can’t quite tell which of you are the right reader to recommend this to and yet I truly believe many just might find it oddly charming as I did. I know a few of you would eat this up and think it brilliant. I also think more of you will find it odd and missing of something concrete. It’s artsy. It really reiterates that the power of words strung together IS art. Construct. Creative. Especially when you hear about the story of how this story came to be…

Please do consider that this work of art, this story, was commissioned AS art and thus it has that metaphysical element of enchantment. Yep, I did say that; I said it.

RATING: Four slices of pie. (no noted mention of pie…)




Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Thoughts tohyomwcotwad The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, translated from the Swedish by Rod Bradbury, Kindle edition HarperCollins 2012 (orig 2009), 400 pages

AudioGO 2012, narrated by Steven Crossley, 12 hours

Whispersync attempt #2 – I mostly listened to this one and only twice was I prompted to the ‘currently-at’ position when I switched from one to the other. And that was only when going to the eBook from listening for awhile. When I read and bookmarked, then hopped in my car to listen, I was never caught up to the spot I should have been at in the reading.

WHY I read/listened:   Our April Book Club selection. Discussion scheduled for April 25.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: I think the title says quite a bit. Except, he doesn’t really disappear. We flashback to all the crazy adventures he had on his life leading up to why he wanted to escape the nursing home on his 100th birthday.

What’s GOOD:  It’s comical, it’s got dry wit. Our centenarian protagonist truly gets himself into some interesting situations and meets the most famous of politicians while not having any political opinions one way or the other – except to stay out of it unless he needs to get ‘into it’ to save his skin. He was a master of deflection and turning a bad deal into a good one. Totally unrealistic and thus very fun.

What’s NOT so good: Well, if you are not really a history buff, I suppose you could roll your eyes and be rather bored about it all, or even just in spots. It is not likely a book for someone who is not comfortable outside a favorite genre if this book isn’t OF that genre. I don’t really know what genre this is – but I wouldn’t quite call it romance. Crime thriller perhaps; historical comedy perhaps?

Caveat – it does have some romance in it, though, so I can’t discount the hooking up that happens.

Caveat #2 – I was NOT bored. I think I even learned a few things.

AND…  It also has a circus animal. A bonus!

It’s a book about friendship. It’s a book about the importance not to over-react, to have a good attitude in the face of crisis, to not snap to rush judgements. And perhaps, about the importance of having a useful skill. (But that is sad to me in light of recent tragedies. The guy was an explosives expert.)

PIE mention:  ~45% in, page 177 of 385:   “… well, the rest would be easy as pie!”  (curious; wondering if the original Swedish used this same phrase and if it was an exact translation…)

RATING:  Three slices of pie. Would rate it 3.5 stars in goodreads, if they allowed that which they do not.

Copyright © 2007-2013. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont

Thoughts Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor, The Viking Press 1971, 178 pages.   Checked out from the library – submitted for vote in my IRL book club as part of Books to Movie* Month but lost to A Single Man (please send good wishes to the universe that this is released to DVD before our next meeting because I screwed up and thought it was available – oops!)

I really enjoyed this sad yet comedic tale of an elderly lady who moves into a residence hotel so she would not be too lonely and yet have a place to live her almost last days.    While out walking, staying active and learning more about her new London neighborhood, she takes a tumble outside of a writer’s apartment;  he  kindly rescues her and calls her a taxi.   She strikes up an interesting friendship with the young man and convinces him to pretend he is her grandson so she can show him off to the other residents.    I wish I could suggest that hijinks ensue but alas, it is really just a sad tale and an admonishment that we need to value our family members.

The characterization was wonderful.    The author was excellent at creating and capturing scenes and personalities of all the characters.    I loved Mrs. Palfrey and was touched by her challenges.   In under 200 pages, we get a true sense of the loneliness and pride and idiosyncracies of everyone, young and old.          We get a sense of all the stereotypes of the expectations and realizations of aging yet are exposed to all the pains and joys of life’s various stages.    This is not a sympathetic tale but one more case of ‘it is what it is’.    But OH!   The ending!!    I will only say that I was outraged and so sad – but I didn’t cry.    I share a few favorite passages:

As she waited for prunes, Mrs. Palfrey considered the day ahead.  The morning was to be filled in quite nicely;  but the afternon and evening made a long stretch.  I must not wish my life away, she told herself; but she knew that, as she got older, she looked at her watch more often, and that it was always earlier that she had thought it would be.  When she was younger it had always been later.

She flushed, unnoticed by him, and signalled to the waiter to refill his glass.   She felt up and down about Ludo – uncertain then sure – as she had felt when, so long ago, she had fallen in love with Arthur:  in those earlier days before she had become quite sure.

She did not explain to him  how deeply pessimistic one must be in the first place, to need the sort of optimism she now had at her command.

He opened the book, but no printed page could be powerful against his sense of desolation.

The book jacket – which I read AFTER reading the book, of course – is perfect:   “With comedy and irony all the way, … desperately poignant, … emotionally rich.”     Four pieces of coconut pie.   (because I am craving coconut right now – no other reason, flaky and white and pure and you either love it or you don’t…)

SCUNNER p.19 “I’ve taken a scunner against the young.” – feeling of disgust or strong dislike.

THOLE p. 19 “She affected such Scottish words and they made her Scottish husband wince.   He could not thole them, as she would have put it.” – endure (something) without complaint or resistance; tolerate.

DESUETUDE p.130 “Pillared and porticoed now in dazzling white, and with window-boxes of public-gardens flowers of orange and beetroot red, they looked conscious of their rescue from threatened desuetude and decay, looked, for the time being most imposing.” – a state of disuse.   [I knew what it meant but it looked misspelled to me.]

PLONK p. 127 ” “It says, ‘Plonk for all who come,'” Mrs. Post read, her nervousness increased.” ” – cheap wine of inferior quality.

BICKIE p.132 ” “Bickies?” Mrs. de Salis had been to fetch some.  Mrs. Palfrey took one.  Bunty scooped up a handful.” –  some kind of cheesy cracker or biscuit.

SQUIFFY p.152 ” “I musn’t get squiffy,” Mrs. Post said, rather surprised at herself for bringing out such a modish-sounding word. ” – slightly drunk

*  The movie of the same name based on this book was released in 2005 and stars Joan Plowright.  I’m looking forward to viewing this for the Read-Book-See-Movie Challenge.



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The Giver by Lois Lowry

Thoughts  tgbll The Giver by Lois Lowry, Dell Laurel-Leaf/Random House 1993, 179 pages, Newberry Medalist

MOTIVATION for READING: This was the highest rated book on one of those “BEST BOOK” lists that I had not yet read and didn’t know enough about it not to read. (There are a few books rated higher that I will never ever read because I just don’t want to.)

AND…    One of the students in a class I sub for mentioned this as one of his favorites.     So I read this in honor of him.  🙂   I also dared him to read the next in the series Gathering Blue so I’ll have to read that soon, I suppose.

WHAT IT’s ABOUT: A young boy lives with his perfect family in a perfect community in a perfect future and is chosen for a unique and honored role:   to be the receiver and keeper of the secrets of the past.     His sole responsibility is to receive the memories from the Giver, an older man who wants to pass on his duties before he’s too old to manage the task.      CAN EITHER of these two HANDLE IT?

WHAT’s GOOD: The setup is handled very well and I was desperate to know the conflict before I was ready to handle it.     The unfolding of the story is important.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD: The ending is frustrating.     I don’t like series books because I don’t like having to read more books than the thousands I have already decided I want to read before I knew I would have to read the second in a series.     Does that make sense?   Another post, another day…


Plus, I’m frustrated to find out that Gathering Blue doesn’t necessarily address much if ANY of this story?   It’s apparently not a continuation.    So add the third book (which I’m not even sure the title!) to Mt. TBR.    I know, I’m just horrible.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I am looking forward to reading Number the Stars.   Is this the 3rd book in this series?     and I’m very glad to now say I’ve read a Lowry book.

This qualifies for my Read-A-Thon Oct09 Hour 16 Mini-Challenge to identify good books with an older protagonist.    Or main character.   A page or a real ongoing challenge on this topic/concept forthcoming.

RATING: Four Pie Slices of Apple Pie.