The first story in Strout's collection, Olive Kitteridge, "Pharmacy," has Henry striving more to understand and assist others than his wife, Olive. Their son makes a couple of short appearances. Mostly the story is about Denise working for Henry in the pharmacy and the loss of her first husband in an accidental shooting. Henry continues to attend church while Olive has become, mysteriously to Henry, an atheist.
I bought this book a long time ago but have held off reading it because I know it is a collection of connected stories and I usually feel that claim is a cop-out. Either it's short stories or it's a novel. For this story, I'm having a difficult time deciding whether or not "Pharmacy" is a stand alone story. For me, it encompasses too much to be a short story. It doesn't feel focused on a theme. It feels more like a world to me than an issue, an idea, a theme, a feeling, a thought, or a worry. Even Alice Munro's stories are large and long but they feel singular in focus.
One thing I'm certain of is that Strout writes some wonderful, long sentences. "Olive's sharp opinions, her full breasts, her stormy moods and sudden, deep laughter unfolded within him a new level of aching eroticism, and sometimes when he was heaving in the dark of night, it was not Denise who came to mind but, oddly, her strong, young husband--the fierceness of the young man as he gave way to the animalism of possession--and there would be for Henry Kitteridge a flash of incredible frenzy as though in the act of loving his wife he was joined with all men in loving the world of women, who contained the dark, mossy secret of the earth deep within them."