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The Olive Picker: A Memoir

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More than a memoir, The Olive Picker is a touching experience brimming with strength and triumph. Facing a horrific attack, a resourceful nurse must summon her wits or lose her life. In this brave and shocking memoir, the author masterfully guides us through the pivotal points of her life, from an abusive upbringing that destroys her self-confidence, to the wreckage of an More than a memoir, The Olive Picker is a touching experience brimming with strength and triumph. Facing a horrific attack, a resourceful nurse must summon her wits or lose her life. In this brave and shocking memoir, the author masterfully guides us through the pivotal points of her life, from an abusive upbringing that destroys her self-confidence, to the wreckage of an ill-conceived marriage, and onto a defining moment, full of grace and mercy, which gave her the wings to become the conquering and triumphant phoenix she is today. Kathi's story is a heart-wrenching testament to the endurance of the human spirit. Beautifully portrayed, The Olive Picker will grab you by the soul and hold you captive to the very last page. "A gripping read, deceptively playful at times, this brave book is a stark reminder that truth is often stranger than fiction." - Vibha Malhotra, author and founder of Literature Studio


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More than a memoir, The Olive Picker is a touching experience brimming with strength and triumph. Facing a horrific attack, a resourceful nurse must summon her wits or lose her life. In this brave and shocking memoir, the author masterfully guides us through the pivotal points of her life, from an abusive upbringing that destroys her self-confidence, to the wreckage of an More than a memoir, The Olive Picker is a touching experience brimming with strength and triumph. Facing a horrific attack, a resourceful nurse must summon her wits or lose her life. In this brave and shocking memoir, the author masterfully guides us through the pivotal points of her life, from an abusive upbringing that destroys her self-confidence, to the wreckage of an ill-conceived marriage, and onto a defining moment, full of grace and mercy, which gave her the wings to become the conquering and triumphant phoenix she is today. Kathi's story is a heart-wrenching testament to the endurance of the human spirit. Beautifully portrayed, The Olive Picker will grab you by the soul and hold you captive to the very last page. "A gripping read, deceptively playful at times, this brave book is a stark reminder that truth is often stranger than fiction." - Vibha Malhotra, author and founder of Literature Studio

30 review for The Olive Picker: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Liza Perrat

    Poignant, heartbreaking, and hopeful. A well-written and very entertaining memoir

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lily

    The true story of the author's mostly terrible life, and how she finally turned things around and started really living. It was hard to read in places, due to the awful treatment she endured, but very well written and with a great "ending." Kept me turning the pages. The true story of the author's mostly terrible life, and how she finally turned things around and started really living. It was hard to read in places, due to the awful treatment she endured, but very well written and with a great "ending." Kept me turning the pages.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Blueink Review

    Kathryn Brettell’s The Olive Picker begins in an ambulance after an attack on the author, then 46. Paramedics ask who to call and she struggles to retrieve a phone number from her battered head. Then, having done so, she relives a joyful moment from a childhood all but devoid of them: Her father pushing her on a swing. “I hear myself laugh as the wind rushes past my face in its warm and perfect caress. My dad, behind me, pushes higher and higher. It is a beautiful day.” Her ability to summon that Kathryn Brettell’s The Olive Picker begins in an ambulance after an attack on the author, then 46. Paramedics ask who to call and she struggles to retrieve a phone number from her battered head. Then, having done so, she relives a joyful moment from a childhood all but devoid of them: Her father pushing her on a swing. “I hear myself laugh as the wind rushes past my face in its warm and perfect caress. My dad, behind me, pushes higher and higher. It is a beautiful day.” Her ability to summon that moment under those circumstances speaks volumes about Brettell: her toughness, humor, optimism, and utter lack of self-pity, the very qualities that elevate her memoir from much of the genre —first-person child-abuse narratives that are sometimes referred to as “misery lit.” The Olive Picker has the same basic elements of these staples: an abusive stepfather who dotes on his own children, saving his sadistic brutality for Kathi and her sister, and a weak-willed mother who turns a blind eye. But none of it— not the beatings, the Herculean chores, nor the myriad rules and prohibitions—succeeds in breaking Kathi’s spirit, not even decades later, when her own husband makes an attempt on her life. A lot happens in between: two marriages, two children, a nursing degree, and a propensity for choosing partners and paths of least resistance. She tells all like the survivor she is: entertainingly, with wit and without apology, as when, after leaving home at 16, she spends $300 (earned picking the titular olives) on a 1959 Forestry Van that only runs in reverse. “I drove that clunker—in reverse—all the way to Scotty’s Transmission in downtown Orangevale where they got it running forward again…” Kathi finally gets her life in gear too, and readers will cheer her all the way to the end. Delivering inspiration as well as entertainment, The Olive Picker is deserving of a spot on the bookshelf alongside such popular memoirs as The Glass Castle and Running With Scissors

  4. 5 out of 5

    RINKU BHARDWAJ

    The olive picker, is one of the very few memoirs that I caught hold of and finished reading in 4 days. A very catchy title, the book cover that talks about the silence that Kathryn has gone through in her turbulent life. It’s the story that author manages to take her reader for a journey of her life, spanning through 60 years. As one flips through chapters, one is intrigued with the details of events, the visuals on surroundings and describing some of unbelievable behavioral aspects of normal hu The olive picker, is one of the very few memoirs that I caught hold of and finished reading in 4 days. A very catchy title, the book cover that talks about the silence that Kathryn has gone through in her turbulent life. It’s the story that author manages to take her reader for a journey of her life, spanning through 60 years. As one flips through chapters, one is intrigued with the details of events, the visuals on surroundings and describing some of unbelievable behavioral aspects of normal human beings who might be living that unspoken life in our neighborhoods. Storytelling is beautifully intertwined with some historical facts and I travelled through that period with her whether it was Vietnamese tension or recession that hit most of the western world. The book is a hope for anyone who in his/her life is at a point of no return, talks of courage that we are capable of discovering in most unexpected way. The only one thing that I missed in the book is Kathryn's connect with Olives that I immediately form as reader because of the title of the book. While she does reflect her love for olives from the life she spent on pastures towards the end but I wish she had explored a little more of the time she spent as olive picker and helped me live her love for olives. Very well articulated and courageous attempt Kathryn!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    What a gripping and gut wrenching tale that had me completely engaged and on the edge of my seat from the moment I started reading. This book takes you on quite a roller coaster ride as you follow Kathi and her very tumultuous life circumstances. I can't believe some of the things she had to deal with and live through. I am so surprised that she made it through alive and with her sanity. This book is so well done that it deserves classic novel status. I could easily see it at the top of the New What a gripping and gut wrenching tale that had me completely engaged and on the edge of my seat from the moment I started reading. This book takes you on quite a roller coaster ride as you follow Kathi and her very tumultuous life circumstances. I can't believe some of the things she had to deal with and live through. I am so surprised that she made it through alive and with her sanity. This book is so well done that it deserves classic novel status. I could easily see it at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It is really that good. The book will take you through a full array of emotions so be prepared. Thankfully the story has a much happier ending then the way it starts. If you're looking for a great read to put on your summer reading list then look no further. You will love this great book! I give it 5 big inspirational stars!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Story of Kathi who grew up in an abusive home with her step father monster. Her and her sister were treated bad and their mother didn't put a stop to it. Eager to finish high school, she leaves home to escape. Young late teenagers, parties and dumb decisions. Marring a guy, having a kid and moving out of state. Pregnant again and husband cheats on her multiple times. Finding her way and divorcing her husband. Start again. Along comes another guy. Marriage with no love? A strange relationship tha Story of Kathi who grew up in an abusive home with her step father monster. Her and her sister were treated bad and their mother didn't put a stop to it. Eager to finish high school, she leaves home to escape. Young late teenagers, parties and dumb decisions. Marring a guy, having a kid and moving out of state. Pregnant again and husband cheats on her multiple times. Finding her way and divorcing her husband. Start again. Along comes another guy. Marriage with no love? A strange relationship that ends in a horrific fight for no reason. Her hard past and this recent event about puts her over the edge. She was not to mourn a wasted past, but to see through different eyes the great joys life has to offer. A great read that I actually read in one day! Couldn't put it down for some reason.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Poignant Story of One Woman's Survival Kathryn Brettell's memoir is poignant, yet inspiring. A thought provoking story from her childhood through to present. A reminder to all that abuse isn't always physical and emotional abuse is just as painful and scarring. Her honest story, survival, and consequent awakening is sad, frightening, enlightening, and inspirational all in one. This memoir is gripping from page one. I applaud this author's writing style and appreciate her efforts to tell her own l Poignant Story of One Woman's Survival Kathryn Brettell's memoir is poignant, yet inspiring. A thought provoking story from her childhood through to present. A reminder to all that abuse isn't always physical and emotional abuse is just as painful and scarring. Her honest story, survival, and consequent awakening is sad, frightening, enlightening, and inspirational all in one. This memoir is gripping from page one. I applaud this author's writing style and appreciate her efforts to tell her own life story. It only takes one life touched to make telling your own painful story more than worthwhile.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan Faw

    I am not normally reading this genre, but this book held me spell bound. There is no question that Kathryn writes from the heart. She is a skillful author who manages to communicate a desperate and difficult time in her life in a fluid format that at no time comes across as a pity party. I am sure many tears were shed in the writing of this memoir and I am equally certain that she has been and will continue to be an inspiration to other women who have suffered and continue to suffer abuse. Five I am not normally reading this genre, but this book held me spell bound. There is no question that Kathryn writes from the heart. She is a skillful author who manages to communicate a desperate and difficult time in her life in a fluid format that at no time comes across as a pity party. I am sure many tears were shed in the writing of this memoir and I am equally certain that she has been and will continue to be an inspiration to other women who have suffered and continue to suffer abuse. Five stars across the board. You are a brave, brave woman!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    I've always wondered how people remember so much detail about their lives that they can write a memoir. And then I wish I had kept journals so that I could look back on my life. Not that I'd want to write a memoir - I'm not that interesting -just just to remember those events that seemed insignificant then but most likely had an impact on the me that I am now. Anyway -- I enjoyed this book. It was a quick and interesting read. I'm always amazed by these strong women who go through so much in the I've always wondered how people remember so much detail about their lives that they can write a memoir. And then I wish I had kept journals so that I could look back on my life. Not that I'd want to write a memoir - I'm not that interesting -just just to remember those events that seemed insignificant then but most likely had an impact on the me that I am now. Anyway -- I enjoyed this book. It was a quick and interesting read. I'm always amazed by these strong women who go through so much in their lives and come out stronger in the end. What a survivor Kathi is!

  10. 5 out of 5

    B.K. Crawford

    Absolutely riveting from the first page to the last. I couldn't put it down and carried it around from room to room while I read. I finished it in one sitting because I simply had to know what was on the next page. I'm not normally drawn to memoirs, but this one seemed to call to me. What an emotional roller-coaster! The author has complete command of the craft and excellent writing strategy. I was impressed the whole way through. Highly recommended. Absolutely riveting from the first page to the last. I couldn't put it down and carried it around from room to room while I read. I finished it in one sitting because I simply had to know what was on the next page. I'm not normally drawn to memoirs, but this one seemed to call to me. What an emotional roller-coaster! The author has complete command of the craft and excellent writing strategy. I was impressed the whole way through. Highly recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Noreen Ashley

    Remarkable I'm so happy to meet you, Kathryn. You are remarkable. I could not put down your story. I have been told that I should write a book. Too overwhelming though. I have 3 sons that have been affected by Agent Orange from when my husband was in Vietnam. The area was sprayed twice while he was stationed there. Thanks again, though, for sharing your story. I'm so glad that you wrote it. Remarkable I'm so happy to meet you, Kathryn. You are remarkable. I could not put down your story. I have been told that I should write a book. Too overwhelming though. I have 3 sons that have been affected by Agent Orange from when my husband was in Vietnam. The area was sprayed twice while he was stationed there. Thanks again, though, for sharing your story. I'm so glad that you wrote it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    The abuse and horror experienced in this book was unsettling. The book gripped me and made me read on but it is disturbing. I am sure writing the book was cathartic. I'm not sure reading the book was healing. It's well written but disturbing. I'm not sure who the audience should be for this book. Haunting! The abuse and horror experienced in this book was unsettling. The book gripped me and made me read on but it is disturbing. I am sure writing the book was cathartic. I'm not sure reading the book was healing. It's well written but disturbing. I'm not sure who the audience should be for this book. Haunting!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Darrell Craig

    Very moving. The author has a wonderful way of drawing you into her life. I truly felt sorry for her because of the way she was treated by those who should have loved her the most. She finally stood up for herself.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kim Ingham

    Courageous What a memoir! I hate reading stories of spousal abuse but this was told in such a way that I never saw it coming to the end it did. Congratulations Kathie, jobs well done on

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mary Baker

    This is one book you won't be able to put down This memoir tells the horrid details of abuse and will have you experience many emotions including disbelief, fear, sympathy, shock, and more. True stories are often more terrifying than fiction and such is the case with this memoir. This is one book you won't be able to put down This memoir tells the horrid details of abuse and will have you experience many emotions including disbelief, fear, sympathy, shock, and more. True stories are often more terrifying than fiction and such is the case with this memoir.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tammy Navarro

    A heartbreaking but uplifting story of survival. This story kept me interested and involved throughout. The pain the main character endured is told in such a factual way that I can't help but be in awe of her strength. She is a true hero. A heartbreaking but uplifting story of survival. This story kept me interested and involved throughout. The pain the main character endured is told in such a factual way that I can't help but be in awe of her strength. She is a true hero.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Gripping Usually I only read funny or descriptive memoirs, not ones that detail an unhappy life. However this was well written,gripping, and in the end a heroines tale. How the author found the courage to keep going and with grit and determination found her happy ending.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amy Sherman

    Disturbing but also inspiring This book is a great testament to the strength and strong will of women who survive the wrath of domestic violence. Kudos to the author for retelling the horrific personal story of her experience and how she overcame. Highly recommend.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gerda

    Amazing life story of survival and ultimately getting to a point of living

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linda Bethea

    Encouraging story of survival Excellent story of a brave woman who triumphed over a lifetime of abuse. Not self-pitying or sensational in the least.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amy Smith

    Excellent I could not put this book down! Very well written. It grabbed me and I was totally absorbed in this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Terry A White

    Heartbreakingly honest Brutally honest story of the author and her journey from chronic abuse to self discovery and joy in life. Inspiring and not easily forgotten.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pat Ellis

    I 'dithered' about reading this Memoir - I am so glad I took the plunge - The subject matter isn't all easy reading but so worthwhile - well written and kept me gripped. I 'dithered' about reading this Memoir - I am so glad I took the plunge - The subject matter isn't all easy reading but so worthwhile - well written and kept me gripped.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Keith Garvert

    Kathy's book sits alongside other great stories of human survival. She takes her readers along with her on the many twists and turns in her life that are a true testament to her tenacious spirit. Kathy's book sits alongside other great stories of human survival. She takes her readers along with her on the many twists and turns in her life that are a true testament to her tenacious spirit.

  25. 5 out of 5

    April

    The Olive Picker: Kathryn Brettell The life story of Kathi who grow up with an abusive step-father and a mother wouldn't protect her and her older sister. The abuse took many forms, physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual. After years she was thrown out, but finished high school. Poor decision making from low self worth had her marrying two men that continued the abuse in different forms. Life and death struggles and a resolution that changed her life. The narration was well done.The charac The Olive Picker: Kathryn Brettell The life story of Kathi who grow up with an abusive step-father and a mother wouldn't protect her and her older sister. The abuse took many forms, physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual. After years she was thrown out, but finished high school. Poor decision making from low self worth had her marrying two men that continued the abuse in different forms. Life and death struggles and a resolution that changed her life. The narration was well done.The characters were well portrayed. Patricia Santomasso created the atmosphere that matched the story. "I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    Mesmerizing I completely believed in Kathi's story. I could relate to a lot of the beat shelves in relationships and hope she gives me strength to make my own changes. Look forward to more by Kathryn Brettell. Mesmerizing I completely believed in Kathi's story. I could relate to a lot of the beat shelves in relationships and hope she gives me strength to make my own changes. Look forward to more by Kathryn Brettell.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Lee

    Rags to Riches Not in the physical sense but in the emotional sense this book covers a multitude of life's happenings. The author is a true hero for all the things life has thrown at her and for surviving ! Rags to Riches Not in the physical sense but in the emotional sense this book covers a multitude of life's happenings. The author is a true hero for all the things life has thrown at her and for surviving !

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christi

    Plucked What an incredible story of strength - found at just the right time. The author lived through a harrowing experience and lived to share about it. I definitely recommend this!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Great Read An inspirational reading of her life story and all she had to overcome. Amazing she survived. A good read for everyone!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cathie M

    Nothing special. I have heard so many stories from friends now that we are adults about many troubled childhoods, myself included.

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