Posts Tagged ‘family’


It’s like coming back home.

February 25, 2010

I hadn’t read a book by Jodi Picoult for two years until I came across this one. Before college started I read about eight pages of it in Borders and wished I could buy it but sadly it was $25 and hardcover. And I wouldn’t get to it for months. However, it reappeared many times in my life. In other bookstores, and then: in the library. I got it on a whim and didn’t think I’d finish it but with Jodi’s books, you get controlled by the plot and characters and all you want to do is know more. I feel so comfortable when I read Jodi’s books, just knowing that with every page turn I’m going to find out more and more. Next I think will be Picture Perfect.

Excerpt #53: Charlotte, mother.
Dont get me wrong; I am not complaining. Other people look at me and think: That poor woman; she has a child with a disability. But all I see when I look at you is the girl who had memorized all the words to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” by the time she was three, the girl who crawls into bed with me whenever there’s a thunderstorm–not because you’re afraid but because I am, the girl whose laugh has always vibrated inside my own body like a tuning fork. I would never have wished for an able-bodied child, because that child would have been someone who wasn’t you.

Excerpt #54: Marin, lawyer.
Being adopted felt like reading a book that had the first chapter ripped out. You might be enjoying the plot and the characters, but you’d probably also like to read that first line, too. However, when you took the book back to the store to say that the first chapter was missing, they told you they couldn’t sell you a replacement copy that was intact. What if you read that first chapter and realized you hated the book, and posted a nasty review on Amazon? What if you hurt the author’s feelings? Better just to stick with your partial copy and enjoy the rest of the story. (52)

Excerpt #55: Marin asking her adoptive mother about her birth mother.
“She got rid of me over thirty years ago. What if I barge into her life and she doesn’t want to see me?”
There was a soft sigh on the other end of the phone. It was, I realized, the sound I associated most with growing up. I’d heard it running into my mother’s arms when a kid had pushed me off the swing at the playground. I’d heard it during an embrace before my newly minted prom date and I drove off to the dance; I’d hard it when she stood at the threshold of my college dorm, trying not to cry as she left me on my own for the first time. In that sound was my whole childhood.
“Marin,” my mother said simply, “who wouldn’t want you?” (130)

Excerpt #56: Sean, father.
Just then, the wind whipped through the open window of the truck, wrinkling the wrappers of the baked goods and reminding me why I’d come back ehre tonight. Stacked in a wheelbarrow were the cookies and cakes and pastries that you and Amelia and Charlotte had been baking for the past few days.
I’d loaded them all – easily thirty wrapped packets, each one tagged with a green string and a construction paper heart – into my truck. You’d cut those out yourself; I could tell. Sweets from Syllabub, they read. I’d imagined your mother’s hand sstroking pastry dough, the look on your face as your carefully cracked an egg, Amelia frustrating her way through an apron’s knot. I came here a couple times a week. I’d eat the first three or four; the rest I’d leave on the steps at the nearest homeless shelter.
I reached into my wallet and took out all my money, the cashed sum of the extra shifts I’d taken on at work to keep form having to go home. This I stuffed, bill by bill, into the shoe box, payment in kind for Charlotte. Before I could stop myself, I tore the paper heart off one packet of cookies. With a pencil, I wrote a customer’s message across the blank back: I love them.
Tomorrow, you’d read it. All three of you would be giddy, would assume the anonymous writer had been talking about the food, and not the bakers. (234)

Excerpt #57: Amelia, sister, telling Adam, a boy with Osteogensis Imperfecta that she lied to him about having OI.
“I’m a horrible person,” I admitted. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry I’m not the person you wanted me to be.”
Adam stared at me soberly. “No, you’re not. You’re better. You’re healthy. WHo wouldn’t want that for someone you really, really like?”
And then, suddenly, his mouth was touching mine, and his tongue was touching mine, and even though I’d never done this and had only read about it in Seventeen, it wasn’t wet or gross or confusing. Somehow, I knew which way to turn and when to open and close my lips and how to breathe. His hands splayed on my shoulder blades, on the spot you’d once broken, on the place where I’d have wings if I had been born an angel.” (290)

Excerpt #58: Amelia.
People always want to know what it feels like, so I’ll tell you: there’s a sting when you first slice, and then your heart speeds up when you see the blood, because you know you’ve done something you shouldn’t have, and yet you’ve gotten away with it. Then you sort of go into a trance, because it’s truly dazzling – that bright red line, like ah highway route on a map that you want to follow to see where it leads. And – God – the sweet release, that’s the best way I can describe it, kind of like a balloon that’s tied to a little kid’s hand, which somehow breaks free and floats into the sky. You just know that balloon is thinking, Ha, I don’t belong to you after all; and at the same time, Do they have any idea how beautiful the view is from up here? And then the balloon remembers, after the fact, that it has a wicked fear of heights. (372)

Excerpt #59, just a little section for one or two liners that I noted. The little things. Sean during his separation with Charlotte.
“That night I drove to Massachusetts. I didn’t have any destination in mind, but I pulled off at random exits and swung through neighborhoods that were buttoned up tight for the night.” (233)

Charlotte missing Sean.
“Somewhere, in the deep creases of my mind – the folds where hope gets caught – I believed that whatever was wrong between Sean and me was reparable.” (272)

Sean finding evidence that Amelia is bulimic.
“They came by the fistfuls: torn candy wrappers, bread loaf wrappers, empty packages of cookies and crackers. They fluttered over my feet like plastic butterflies.” (424)

In short: read it!

Handle With Care, Jodi Picoult


White Noise Part II

January 6, 2010

I took a very long time to finish it, but I knew I couldn’t return this book to the library unfinished, like I’ve done for so many others. Here are a few other excerpts that I thought were utterly unique and well put together and beautiful, although my overall impression of the book otherwise. It was strange and sometimes surreal, children can’t be that informed about the inner workings of life and their parent’s lives. It was still a riveting read and I recommend you read these excerpts if not the entire book. The second one in particular I could imagine as a scene in an indie, ground-breaking (for lack of better word) film. Just as background, the narrator is the dad of the children and Babette is his wife.
Excerpt #48:
“Any episodes of déjà vu in your group?”
“Wife and daughter,” I said.
“There’s a theory about déjà vu.”
“I don’t want to hear it.”
“Why do we think these things happened before? Simple. They did happen before, in our minds, as visions of the future. Because these are precognitions, we can’t fit the material into our system of consciousness as it is now structured. This is basically supernatural stuff. We’re seeing into the future but haven’t learned how to process the experience. So it stays hidden until the precognition comes true, until we come face to face with the event. Now we are free to remember it, to experience it as familiar material.”
“Why are so many people having these episodes now?”
“Because death is in the air,” he said gently. “It is liberating suppressed material. It is getting us closer to things we haven’t learned about ourselves. Most of us have probably seen our own death but haven’t known how to make the material surface. Maybe when we die, the first thing we’ll say is, ‘I know this feeling. I was here before.'” (151)

Excerpt #49:
No one wanted to cook that night. We all got in the car and went out to the commercial strip in the no man’s land beyond the town boundary. The never-ending neon. I pulled in at a place that specialized in chicken parts and brownies. We decided to eat in the car. The car was sufficient for our needs. We wanted to eat, not look around at other people. We wanted to fill our stomachs and get it over with. We didn’t need light and space, We certainly didn’t need to face each other across a table as we ate, building a subtle and complex cross-network of signals and codes. We were content to eat facing in the same direction, looking only inches past our hands. There was a kind of rigor in this. Denise brought the food out to the car and distributed paper napkins. We settled in to eat. We ate fully dressed, in hats and heavy coats, without speaking, ripping into chicken parts with our hands and teeth. There was a mood of intense concentration, minds converging on a single compelling idea. I was surprised to find I was enormously hungry. I chewed and ate, looking only inches past my hands. This is how hunger shrinks the world. This is the edge of the observable universe of food. Steffie tore off the crisp skin of a breast and gave it to Heinrich. She never ate the skin. Babette sucked a bone. Heinrich traded wings with Denise, a large for a small. He thought small wings were tastier. People gave Babette their bones to clean and suck. I fought off an image of Mr. Gray lazing naked on a motel bed, an unresolved picture collapsing at the edges. We sent Denise to get more food, waiting for her in silence. Then we started in again, half stunned by the dimensions of our pleasure. (231-232)

A different cover...for variety.

Excerpt #50:
We go to the overpass all the time. Babette, Wilder, and I. We take a thermos of iced tea, park the car, watch the setting sun. Clouds are no deterrent. Clouds intensify the drama, trap and shape the light. Heavy overcasts have little effect. Light bursts through, tracers and smoky arcs. Overcasts enhance the mood. We find little to say to each other. More cars arrive, parking in a line that extends down to the residential zone. People walk up the incline and onto the overpass, carrying fruit and nuts, cool drinks, mainly the middle-aged, the elderly, some with webbed beach chairs which they set out on the sidewalk, but younger couples also, arm in arm at the rail, looking west. The sky takes on content, feeling, an exalted narrative life. The bands of color reach so high, seem at times to separate into their constituent parts. There are turreted skies, light storms, softly falling streamers. It is hard to know how to feel about this.Some people are scared by the sunsets, some determined to be elated, but most of us don’t know how to feel, are ready to go either way. Rain is no deterrent. Rain brings on graded displays, wonderful running hues. More cars arrive, people come trudging up the incline, The spirit of these warm evenings is hard to describe. There is anticipation in the air but it is not the expectant midsummer hum of a shirtsleeve crowd, a sandlot game, with coherent precedents, a history of secure response. This waiting is introverted, uneven, almost backward and shy, tending toward silence. What else do we feel? Certainly there is awe, it is all awe, it transcends previous categories of awe, but we don’t know whether we are watching in wonder or dread, we don’t know what we are watching or what it means, we don’t know whether it is permanent, a level of experience to which we will gradually adjust, into which our uncertainty will eventually be absorbed, or just some atmospheric weirdness, soon to pass. The collapsible chairs are yanked open, the old people sit. What is there to say? The sunsets linger and so do we. The sky is under a spell, powerful and storied. Now and then a car actually crosses the overpass, moving slowly, deferentially. People keep coming up the incline, some in wheelchairs, twisted by disease, those who attend them bending low to push against the grade. I didn’t know how many handicapped and helpless people there were in town until the warm nights brought crowds to the overpass. Cars speed beneath us, coming from the west, from out of the towering light, and we watch them as if for a sign, as if they carry on their painted surfaces some residue of the sunset, a barely detectable luster or film of telltale dust. No one plays a radio or speaks in a voice that is much above a whisper. Something golden falls, a softness delivered to the air. There are people walking dogs, there are kids on bikes, a man with a camera and long lens, waiting for his moment. It is not until some time after dark has fallen, the insects screaming in the heat, that we slowly begin to disperse, shyly, politely, car after car, restored to our separate and defensible selves. (325)

-White Noise by Don Delillo