Some words just can’t be left behind after you close the book. When I read a novel, poem, or non-fiction, I keep a small journal in which I copy those words that touch me. Here are some of my favorites.
The first line of BACKSEAT SAINTS by Joshilyn Jackson is one of the most enticing novel openings I’ve read: “It was an airport gypsy who told me that I had to kill my husband….she was only giving voice to a thinking I’d been trying not to know for a long, long time.”
I discovered the poem “Bearded Oaks” by Robert Penn Warren when I was a freshman in college, and for decades the final verse lingers like background music in my mind: “We live in time so little time, / And we learn all so painfully, / That we could use this hour’s term / To practice for eternity.”
Snake handling fascinates me. The fact that people are driven to take up poisonous serpents and are brave enough to risk their lives doing so is morbidly fascinating. A non-fiction book that explores the practice, SALVATION ON SNAKE MOUNTAIN by Dennis Covington, expresses that fascination. “At the heart of the impulse to tell stories is a mystery so profound that even as I begin to speak of it, the hairs on the back of my hand are starting to stand on end.”
I love short, to-the-point similes. Check out this one from DEEPER by Robin York: “Bridget talks like a faucet. She’s either off or on.” Likewise, who could not love the equally impressive metaphor from WHERE WE BELONG by Emily Griffin: “While we wait for our wine, I stall, avoiding the wooly mammoth in the room…”
LAY DEATH AT HER DOOR by Elizabeth Buhmann, is one of my all-time favorite mysteries. It has a plot line that kept me guessing throughout the book, but more than that, the psychological trigger for the mystery is multi-layered and shocking.
“In 1986, a man was murdered. I was beaten and raped. The ensuing trial dominated local headlines until my eyewitness testimony sent a man named Jules Jefferson to prison for life.
This line from one of my favorite romances, WHEN YOU MAKE IT HOME by Claire Ashby, tugs at my heart. The book not only portrays a beautiful love story, but it also graphically exposes an issue that so many people deal with today: “The pills were taking his pain, and they were taking him with it.”
I love sushi and wasabi! Literally, I can spend a fortune eating at my favorite sushi bar. And look at how Isaac Marion in WARM BODIES uses the unique tang of wasabi in this line: “We start to smell the living as we approach a dilapidated apartment building. The smell is not the mush of sweat and skin, it’s the effervescence of life energy like the ionized tang of lightening and lavender. We don’t smell it in our noses. It hits us near our brains like wasabi.”
Four hundred and nineteen years ago, William Shakespeare, THE TWELFTH NIGHT, penned words that defy being left behind: “No prisons are more confining than those that we know not we are in.” When I drill down into my characters’ motivations, his line chants in the background. Desdemona in Faking Lucky doesn’t find the love and physical freedom she yearns for until she recognizes the constraints that are confining her.