Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

In 2017

First Lines

  1. I offered my hand to the fire.
  2.  “The morning light glittered on the glass windows and on the blades of the guillotines in the central square.
  3. On my deathbed I shall remember that April day if I remember anything at all.
  4. The waters of Lake Wilhelm are dark and chilled.
  5. You’re still alive in alternate universes, Theo, but I live in the real world, where this morning you’re having an open-casket funeral.
  6. On the rare nights that she sleeps, she is back in the skin of the woman from before.
  7. It took seven years to get the letter right.
  8. It’s a lovely little flat, the letting agent says with what could almost pass for genuine enthusiasm.
  9. ‘Murderer!’ They shouted.
  10. The first time I meet Patrick Braddock, I’m wearing his wife’s lipstick.
  11. ‘I was going to say something,’ he said.
  12. A doorman ushered me toward the historic garden court inside the Palace Hotel, the sequins on my gold shift dress catching the light.
  13. Fame would strike someone, usually the kind that healthy-minded people would not wish upon themselves, such as being kidnapped and kept prisoner for years, humilated in a sex scandal, or surviving something typically fatal.
  14. People usually didn’t say anything when they returned their tapes to the Video Hut: in a single and somewhat graceful movement, they’d approach the counter, slide the tapes towards whoever was stationed behind the register, and wheel back toward the door.
  15. I know, long before Noah parks in the newly paved two-car driveway, that this is not a house I want to own.
  16. On our wedding day I was forty-six, she was eighteen.
  17. It was an unusually hot weekend in mid-June and sweat pooled along Luke Hadley’s spine as he lay on his stomach on a blanket in the front yard.
  18. The man behind me is standing close enough to moisten the skin on my neck with his breath.
  19. One time, a boy kissed me and I almost died.
  20. Like any Chicago tavern in deep summer, Joe Mulligan’s stank.
  21. On our wedding day I was forty-six, she was eighteen.
  22. Her father a golden face in the darkness.
  23. This is how I come to kill my father.
  24. The facts of the matter were these: At a little before ten o’clock in the evening of the first Saturday in July 1899, Marcel Després returned home to his studio apartment in the Cour du Commerce, the narrow passage that connects the Rue Saint-Andrés-des-Arts and the Boulevard Saint-Germain.
  25. The corpse on the table smelled rancid, and I pressed my handkerchief to my mouth.
  26. I didn’t have long.
  27. Nothing feels as free as this!
  28. Why is, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ the go-to small talk we make with children?
  29. The tunnels go under the sea.
  30. ‘A ball, at last!’ Dimity Plumleigh-Teignmott sank back into her chair in delight.
  31. Lola stands across the craggy square of backyard she shares with Garcia.
  32. When Loo was twelve years old her father taught her how to shoot a gun.
  33. The day of the countess’s famous harvest party began with a driving rain that hammered down on all the ancient von Lingenfels castle’s sore spots — springing leaks, dampening floors, and turning its yellow façade a slick, beetle-like black.
  34. I did not set out to ruin my sister’s debut.
  35. No one gets to a certain age without having made a few basic decisions on how to be in the world.
  36. There’s the person who you think you should be and there’s the person who you really are.
  37. A twenty-story-tall metallic figure appeared in the middle of Regent’s Park this morning.
  38. Practically every woman, whether she is rich or poor, is facing today a reduction in income.
  39. The time: September 1997, my fourth and final year at Dellecher Classical Conservatory.
  40. For certain New Orleanians, Memorial Medical Center was the place you went to ride out each hurricane that the loop current of the Gulf of Mexico launched like a pinball at the city.
  41. Burning is an art.
  42. Sofia, the year 2008.
  43. This was a long time ago, before my first death, and none of us are the people we were then.
  44. Reeve’s End is the kind of town every kid can’t wait to escape.
  45. Rachel was born in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.
  46. We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.
  47. Not too far away from here, just over the horizon of our imagination, there’s a girl floating in the river.
  48. The wood is dark and the wood is deep and the trees claw at the sky with branches like bones, ripping holes in the canopy of clouds, revealing glimpses of a distant, rotting moon the color of dead flesh.
  49. The road to Coldthistle House was dark and dangerous.
  50. Piero Manzano hit the brakes as hard as he could and braced himself against the steering wheel with both arms as his Alfa hurtled toward the light-green car ahead.
  51. Katherine Schaub had a jaunty spring in her step as she walked the brief four blocks to work.
  52. Freedom was a myth.
  53. His mother glides across the flagstone patio slowly, hips and long legs working in time with the music, a kind of undulating dance that reminds Miles of the way tall grass moves just before a thunderstorm.
  54. Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead and pulled the trigger.
  55. His birth certificate reads Muzikayise McCarthy, but nobody calls him that except his grandfather and anyone looking for a busted lip.
  56. On November 8, 2016, I woke up early and said, to no one in particular, ‘I’m so excited to vote for our first female president!’
  57. I have been acquainted with the smell of death.
  58. ‘This is the end.’
  59. A sex tape.
  60. Matty Telemachus left his body for the first time in the summer of 1995, when he was fourteen years old.
  61. She was awakened by the monster knocking at the door.
  62. The forest had claws and teeth.
  63. In the dusky haze of evening a ruddy-cheeked newsboy strode along Fifth Avenue proclaiming the future: ‘The great Egyptian obelisk is about to land on our shores!’
  64. Once, I scarcely believed in the devil.
  65. We are close, so close, to Margaret’s apartment, and I feel myself sink deeper into the passenger seat, relieved that I have succeeded in my small mission of getting Margaret out of her home, if only for a few hours.
  66. Hell was a party.
  67. Alice Lake lives in a house by the sea.
  68. I met the man who would save my life twice – and ultimately destroy it – on a potholed road in the arse-end of the Welsh countryside.
  69. He is out and running in the first grey of morning.
  70. A pane of glass breaks in Bill Hodge’s pants pocket.
  71. I want something of hers.
  72. The place was a quiet as it ever got in the hours around midnight, with only occasional screams or sobs from the cells down the corridor to disturb his contemplation.
  73. Dawn bloomed, pink as a rose, tinting the snow-drenched mountains with delicate color.
  74. People who knew Chester and Serena Wolcott socially would have placed money on the idea that the couple would never choose to have children.
  75. You should probably know two things up front.
  76. We believe what we want to believe.
  77. While I dressed, I played Cole Porter’s ‘Miss Otis Regrets,’ the Ella Fitzgerald version.
  78. She knew it was the third day when she woke.
  79. If I moved even one inch, I was going to be crushed by a stack of werewolf mating guides.
  80. Being inside a club in Los Angeles is like wading in a pool of toxic waste, even for someone who doesn’t have my particular talent.
  81. In the beginning, nearly fourteen billion years ago, all the space and all the matter and all the energy of the known universe was contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence.
  82. It was the warmth that Girl would remember.
  83. They say that death comes in threes.
  84. My computer is winking at me knowingly when I sit down at my desk.
  85. We walk, we walk, we walk.
  86. Death-Cast is calling with the warning of a lifetime — I’m going to die today.
  87. When a North Carolina family discovered tiny, bloodsucking parasites resembling bed bugs in their house, they had no idea that there was worse news to come.
  88. Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
  89. It’s too damn cold of a day to be out on a hunt.
  90. Five warriors led me into the Pit, down a narrow, spiraling staircase.
  91. Adam would have to get the flowers himself.
  92. Natalia Arron oversees her younger sister’s move back to Greavesdrake with a critical eye.
  93. If you ever see a door hovering in the middle of a misty, gray fog, don’t open it.
  94. The young man is first disdainful, then grudgingly polite as Rahul Khadse approaches and asks him for a cigarette.
  95. He was still bleeding.
  96. Beliefs are strange.
  97. This is what you should look for on this 90-degree June morning: The broadcast news interns pairing running shoes with their summer business casual, hovering by the Supreme Court’s public information office.
  98. The automaton is the size of a child, a hard weight against my fingers.
  99. Lyra had started collecting things.” or “ ‘Pick,’ April said, and then leaned over to jab Gemma with a finger.
  100. It’s been fourteen years, last night.
  101. Every so often — frequently when consenting adults are reported to be having sex in some manner that would have been banned in the Victorian age — a TV commentator will shake his head and discuss how this behavior led to Rome’s final days.
  102. You’re wind.
  103. For a long while Joan has managed to balance on the balls of her bare feet, knees bent, skirt skimming the dirt.
  104. The heat had finally broken, ushering in what the Parisians were calling ‘le répit.’
  105. I like to think I know what death is.
  106. I want to tell you about my father’s murder.
  107. Forgive me when I tell you it was me.
  108. I circled the Frostblood warrior, my boots kicking up dust from the drought-dry earth.
  109. Our train gnashed its way along frozen tracks towards the white-capped fangs of the Carpathian Mountains.
  110. Ree asked Jeanette if she ever watched the square of light from the window.
  111. The baby’s hands and feet had become icy, swollen, and red.
  112. When I tell you that my white name is Cedar Hawk Songmaker and that I am the adopted child of Minneapolis liberals, and that when I went looking for my Ojibwe parents and found that I was born Mary Potts I hid the knowledge, maybe you’ll understand.
  113. They’d driven all the way to Mr. Styles’s house before Anna realized that her father was nervous.
  114. I sip my hot cocoa, not the powder kind that comes out of a packet, but the shaved-chocolate kind made from scratch.
  115. Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from home, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society.
  116. Now that my mother was disappearing, I wondered when it began to happen.
  117. Nanette shook the pony’s reins and clucked at him.
  118. The long spelling lesson is done, and Mr. Abraham is now talking about soaking and curing leather.
  119. Someone had poisoned me.
  120. The night was thinning as he went down the donkey track to the quay with his tools over his shoulder.
  121. The blaze of sun wrung pops of sweat from the old man’s brow, yet he cupped his hands around the glass of hot sweet tea as if to warm them.
  122. It’s sunset, and the sky is aflame, not with clouds or dust, but with the iridescent feathers of a million genehacked passenger pigeons.
  123. Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.
  124. I glance at my wife as she climbs into the passenger seat, sunlight bouncing off her shiny blond hair like sparklers lit for the Fourth of July, and I am bursting with confidence.
  125. King James paused with his hand already raised to the iron latch.
  126. Nora’s first thought when they brought her the body was that it could not be her husband’s.
  127. The room was kept dark on purpose, a soft pin spot here and there, because at the age of 127, the creature that had once been Arthur Vogel couldn’t stand bright light.
  128. She’d grown used to calling the Danube by its Hungarian name–Duna.
  129. Frantically unpacking my flaming vehicle while it merrily burned on the side of the road was not how I wanted to start my time in Mud Creek.
  130. The Monterey Dream pulled away from the dock at a slow, easy pace, drawing gasps of astonished delight from the tourists crowding her decks.
  131. I bounded over the gray, dusty terrain toward the huge dome of Conrad Bubble.
  132. Cold and smooth, the flagstones of our hallway are reassuringly solid beneath me, each one a raised bump, the mortar crevices like emery boards to my touch, segmenting the repeating pattern.
  133. Most people find the forest frightening, believing the old tales of fairies who will freeze the time in your blood, or witches who can spill your years out over the snow with only a whisper.
  134. The trap was empty and the snow was bloody, which meant one of three things.
  135. I am the white boy at the Martin Luther King Middle.
  136. The airplane’s engines rumble.
  137. All her life, Lilian Shepherd will remember her first glimpse of the ship.
  138. ‘My dear girl,’ the woman sitting next to Irene sniffed, ‘if you haven’t opened your veins before, then do let Mr. Harper do it for you.’