I'm currently reading Olive Kitteridge (and no, it's not because of the new mini-series...what do you take me for?), and I must say I'm impressed with Strout's character development skills. Some of the people in the book only get a few pages, so to be able to convey enough in those pages to leave your readers not only understanding a character's background and motive but also wishing they could keep reading about said character is a skill indeed.
Oddly, the one person I don't find myself wanting to know more about (or connecting with at all, really) is Olive. You could say she was dealt a bad hand, but you could also say she's just not a very nice person. I was however drawn to the passage where she looks at a childhood photo of her husband. She imagines telling his kid self what will become of him. "You will marry a beast and love her. You will have a son and love him. You will be endlessly kind to townspeople as they come to you for medicine, tall in your white lab coat. You will end your days blind and mute in a wheelchair. That will be your life."
It's an overly simplistic summation, surely, but the reduction is still true. In that it is composed of true statements. And what struck me as I read this passage yesterday is that for all of us, the same sort of summation can be made someday. It's not the short length of the summation or its oversimplification that has me so pensive, rather the setness of the paths we ultimately take in life. It may seem like there are decisions to be made (and there are), but at the end of the day, there is only one way things are going to shake out for each of us; one series of decisions that will lead us to one end state. That will be our lives. Yours. And mine, too.