The Olive Picker

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


Kathryn Brettell's The Olive Picker begins in an ambulance after an attack on the author. 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. ~ BlueInk STARRED Review, April 2016


"Some books are simply 'unputdownable' and THE OLIVE PICKER is one of them. From the opening paragraph in which author Kathryn Brettell clings to life in an ambulance to the next chapter in her therapist's office to the next, which takes the reader back to her conflicted childhood, this book grabs the reader by the scruff and never lets go. The writing is so simple, clean and powerful that one is barely aware of the very act of reading, immersion into the story becomes so total.
While one might compare the pacing to such titles as THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, this book has an underlying theme far more powerful than any murder mystery. Abuse is a difficult topic that should be handled in such a way so that one avoids appearing like a victim or becomes lost in a morass of the events. This author carefully picks her battles, skillfully inserting them into the story line, building momentum and suspense.
Although readers know the outcome from the beginning, the journey is so convoluted and original they may likely feel compelled to come along for the ride, even if it means reading into the wee hours of the night."  ~ Judge, 3rd Annual Writer's Digest Self Published eBook Awards

"The Olive Picker: A Memoir by Kathryn Brettell is a great book that will make you believe in strength and courage. Her story is heartbreaking, but her recovery is inspiring and very, very brave. The way she has written the book makes you understand her personality and how she is a fighter. The book is sometimes sad, sometimes happy, and sometimes hysterical. But when you are reading it, you will never ever feel pity for her, and that is because she never feels pity for herself. She is a strong, resilient woman and it shows in her words. It is written perfectly; you can feel her emotions, feel her fear, and the way she makes up her mind. You can actually imagine her voice reading her words to you. It is very powerful and very dynamic. This is perfection! 5stars!" ~ Rabia Tanveer, Reviewer for Readers' Favorite

Profile Photo Kathryn L Brettell

About Kathryn L Brettell

Kathi loves to write, and her book THE OLIVE PICKER, is actually her best biography, since it is a true story chronicling her humor, determination and success in dealing with a variety of abusive domestic situations. Kathi has writtten and published the short stories Runners and Solitaire, as well as some posts she's written as a traveller in India, Africa, Europe and Australia.

All books by Kathryn L Brettell

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