Seven veterans of the Vietnam war -- most of them still teens -- return home to Cementville, Kentucky...more~ Veterans of war: this story understands you. ~
Seven veterans of the Vietnam war -- most of them still teens -- return home to Cementville, Kentucky, in coffins. An eighth, the only survivor of the raid that killed his brothers in arms, rides shotgun in the lead hearse as the cortege rolls into town. He's been medalled -- he's called a hero. It's 1969, and Cementville, known for its cement plant and renowned for its bourbon, harbours just over a thousand souls. Everyone knows everyone else, or so they think, and drifters, wanderers, are looked at with a slant eye.
Seven sons dead; two intact. One with a shot-off leg, a clink over his heart, and a psyche full of napalm, and one who'd headed north, to Canada.
They all come home.
~ She was sick to death of this edginess, the way the second hand of a clock seemed to sweep in slow motion around the inside of her skull, reminding her that time was passing and the world was passing and she was just here, here, here. Instead of winding down like a normal clock, she could feel springs inside her being coiled tighter.
~ Evelyn Slidell is not given to platitudes, knowing from experience that most of them are lies other people will tell you for their own comfort. She may be the town's ogress, but she is not a liar.
~ Katherine shuddered, actually had to rub her arms to get the goose bumps to go down, from the chill in his voice. It was Willis who taught her what unconditional love -- when truly lived -- felt like. And now he seemed to suffer a physical revulsion at the very thought of his own son.
~ Halden O'Brien sat, rigid as a man condemned, not by laws but by the jury crowding his tormented mind, a sentiment Alden conjured as he looked into the hooded eyes, the uncanted head rod straight. A line floated through Alden's mind, something from a half-remembered poem abou the dead in war being more alive than the living.
~ They wait for Billy to breathe in the air of home, the only thing that works to calm him.
~ "...He's suffered enough, sitting around here like a walnut hull, the insides of him picked clean. He didn't deserve this."
~ This may be the first, this moment of openness, when she really sees what has come home to her, a boy who is not yet a man but is already as broken as any man with decades behind him.
~ Surely there must have been a time when he was not poison. Poisoned.
"Son, we must flee the madness that invents peoples and tribes."
A holocaust like so many others, marked only by the fact that its perpetrators live in...more"Son, we must flee the madness that invents peoples and tribes."
A holocaust like so many others, marked only by the fact that its perpetrators live in a country "too poor to afford gas chambers."
A story based in actual events -- Rwanda, 1994 -- and made bearable to read by a love imagined at its core. LIke so many great loves, this one is impossible to sustain.
Time, now, to read more stories of how the people of Rwanda have gone on, twenty years later.
"You live like an animal guided by instinct. As if your eyes are closed and your ears are blocked, but there's a secret compass inside you that always directs you to the small and forgotten, or impossible loves, like ours. You know you can't do anything, that your being here won't change a thing, but you keep going anyway."
(What women will do when most of the men are engaging in mass murder:) The Hutu and Tutsi widows had got together and decided to divide up the homeless children. Marie had taken in three ... Their father, a neighbour and good friend, had killed her husband. "They were close friends with my eldest ... and children aren't responsible for our crimes."
"A few days ago I was a thousand points of pleasure, a thousand musical notes transformed into a hymn by your fingers, your lips, your tongue. Today I'm only two dirty, stinking little holes they keep trying to make bigger."
Two poem fragments, composed by Paul Eluard:
Sweet future, I am this pierced eye This open belly and these nerves in tatters I who am the object of worms and ravens
We shall not grow old together This is the day Too much: time is overfull My love so light now has the weight of torture
Propaganda is as powerful as heroin; it surreptitiously dissolves all capacity to think.
* Never, ever mistake kindness for weakness. (Gamache)
* The 'four phases to wisdom': I don't know -- I need help -- I'm sorry -- I was wrong. G...moreQuotes:
* Never, ever mistake kindness for weakness. (Gamache)
* The 'four phases to wisdom': I don't know -- I need help -- I'm sorry -- I was wrong. Gamache also admits: "I forget." ~ I'd add: "Thank you."
* The only reason doors were locked was to prevent neighbours from dropping off baskets of zucchini at harvest time.
* "Oscar Wilde said that conscience and cowardice are the same thing." (Clara)
* "What made you that angry?" Clara was astonished. / "Betrayal, always and only betrayal."
* "Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table." (Quoting Auden)
* "I've never met anyone uniformly kind and good."
* "She's a triumph of image over reality. I'm not even sure if she knows what reality is anymore, she's so busy creating this image of herself ... She's like a Hollywood set. This big fake front and all sort of empty and ugly behind."
* "Life is choice. All day, every day ... our lives become defined by our choices. ... when I'm observing, that's what I'm watching for. The choices people make."
* Every morning Lucy's prayers were answered, confirming her belief that God was old and clumsy and smelt like roses and lived in the kitchen. (Lucy = a dog; God = her human)
* Can she learn? Undoubtedly. But the real question is, can she unlearn?
* "I've been treating you with courtesy and respect because that's the way I choose to treat everyone. But never, ever mistake kindness for weakness."
* "I think many people love their problems. Gives them all sorts of excuses for not growing up and getting on with life ... [They're] waiting for someone to save them. Expecting someone to save them or at least protect them from the big, bad world. The thing is no one else can save them because the problem is theirs and so is the solution." (Myrna)
* "Oscar Wilde said there's no sin except stupidity." (Gamache)
* ... the great Canadian ambivalence of kindness and rage.
* "It's Darwinism at its most refined. You adapt or die. You learn that the skills that allow you to survive are cunning, cheating, bullying, lying. Either that or just plain hiding." (Reminds me of how sibling relations can be!)
* "Abby Hoffman said that should all eat what we kill. That would put an end to war." (Gamache to Beauvoir)
* Who hurt you, once, / so far beyond repair / that you would greet each overture / with curling lip? / When were these seeds of anger sown / and on what ground / that they should flourish so ... (Ruth Zardo)
* He was exhausted. Bad art did this to him.
* Goodness existed: that was the new knowledge. / His terror had to blow itself quite out.
* "The oldest story in the book ... Greed." (Gamache)
* Home as an allegory for self. A self-portrait of our choices. And our blind spots.