That’s the first line of Olive Hill, a seven episode audio drama podcast that finished this week. It’s the story of Esther Snow, a journalist returning to her home town to try and discover the truth about a mystery that defined her childhood. It’s also about the challenges of being an outsider, of growing up in small rural towns, of grief and of the labyrinth of memory we’re all tied to.
Writers Ian Epperson, Bridgett Howard and Brooke Jennett don’t just understand small towns on the genetic level, they understand the people who grow up there. Jennett also voices Esther and gives her an intensely personal, cautious edge which marks her out something as very different to the ‘plucky journalist’ trope that has often dominated this field. Esther is in mourning, and off balance but she’s also aware that she got out and that leaving Olive Hill equipped her to understand Olive Hill. But the residents also know her outsider status gives them a release valve for a decades old secret. That complex web of antagonistic inter-dependency drives the series and pushes everyone further apart even as it holds them together.
Olive Hill the town is located on the edge of a large forest. Olive Hill the series is located on the edge of a genre and it isn’t saying which one. The show dances with concepts from horror, thrillers, romance and the supernatural but never quite settles on one partner and that’s it’s secret. A town on the edge, populated by people who cross every boundary. The strange and the mundane side by side in the lunch queue. The quiet, patient kindness of the recently deceased and the open spaces that appear when you finally leave the past behind. This is Olive Hill. And Olive Hill deserves to be heard.
Olive Hill is a podcast and is available in its entirety now. Listen here or via your podcatcher of choice.
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