Oh, that’s interesting, Martin. My edition doesn’t have an appendix. An interview with Olive, how funny!
harambee, I agree with you. To a certain extent, I think it reflects Olive’s ideas of gender roles. Olive frequently describes assertive women as ‘bossy’ (Dr Sue, Molly Collins), but less assertive women as mice (Denise, Andrea Bibber) or as having no ‘oomph’ to them (Henry Thibodeau’s mother). Other women can’t win in Olive’s eyes, as one of the other characters comments about any woman who might have ended up marrying Christopher, but I think it applies more broadly.
The first story, ‘Pharmacy’, is particularly interesting from the point of view of gender roles. The Thibodeaus are in a relationship that is different from the Kitteridge’s model of a strong-willed woman with an amenable man, which confuses Olive but appeals to some part of Henry K. I was amused by Olive’s observation that men end up marrying their mothers, except for Henry K. – juxtaposed with the statement that Henry’s mother cared for him ‘with stridency’, which seems like a pretty apt description of Olive’s own parenting style.
More generally, it seems to me that the less forceful women in this world end up with men who don’t always treat them very well (Bonnie, Angie, Marlene, possibly Denise in her second marriage).
On a different subject: did anyone else find ‘A Different Road’ tonally strange? I’ve read it a few times, and I still can’t decide if it works for me. It’s the funniest story so far, and the humour stands out because the previous stories had a lot less of it, but also because it’s so broad: Olive’s scathing thoughts about Cynthia and Andrea Bibber; the toilet humour early on in the first flashback section (funniest bit there: Olive deciding she ‘was not going to spoil this moment thinking of Pauline’, the precious moment being the act of relieving herself); then the hostage scene in the loo – the hurtful things Henry and Olive say to each other aren’t funny, but the series of mutual irritations leading up to their being said has a dialogue-de-sourds quality to it that is comical to me. Also, the outlandish plot is absurd in and of itself. Other aspects of the story are far more understated, which is one reason why the earthy humour seems somewhat jarring.
There is a lot going on in the story, which doesn’t help, I think. It’s not straightforward in terms of chronology. Then there are Olive’s complicated feelings towards various other characters in the story, but most notably towards her assailant, culminating in the unexpected revelation that she is sewing him a gardening smock for his work in the prison garden.
I’ve enjoyed the second batch of stories, even though I am now rather distracted by the other book I am reading alongside this (I don’t normally like to read two books in parallel). One very general comment: making Olive a retired schoolteacher is a convenient device, as she knows so many of the townspeople from when they were children and ‘continues to see half the town as kids’.