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First, I tried to come up with some witty title for this post that somehow related to the content of this post, but in the end I decided that “River” was about as fitting as I could get.

Second, I want to call this a happily ever after story, and for two reasons. The first is done through Strout’s use of language when she uses and repeats phrases, for example, “He never mentioned Harvard” when earlier in the story Jack had been described as always talking about Harvard. The irony of getting to know someone and realizing they aren’t what you expected is portrayed in this story with that one line. After it’s established that Jack isn’t just a rich white Republican guy who doesn’t support his daughter, though he’s all of those things but rich, Olive seems to move away from being so selfish. Her character begins to shift and become more accepting. She doesn’t take responsibility for the lack of communication between her and her son, but she does acknowledge, finally, that she hasn’t been perfect. It’s like suddenly this old man who takes breaks when he walks changes Olive. Maybe it’s because he’s so radically different than her that he has the ability to show her that acceptance is possible.

So that’s why it’s a happily ever after. There’s this sort of muted detachment from Christopher where Olive doesn’t seem as bothered by he’s lack of contact with her. She even, in the end, owns up to mistreated him. Perhaps agreeing with Christopher telling her that it takes two. She takes breaks on her walks with Jack, because she enjoys his company. She wants to live. It seems as if Olive is finally okay with the world.

And what a way to end a book, because that’s what I think this is, that has dealt with so many other troubling issues. Finally Olive can have her peace and live out her days in a very simple, content way.

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