“Dear God, think before you speak next time.” That’s the advice a friend gives my main character in The Brevity of Roses. I wish I’d done that before I promised to share my favorite passages of that novel with you. I quickly discovered that’s not an easy task. I love too many of them, but that’s not the only consideration.
What makes a selection a favorite—particularly, among words you’ve written yourself? Is it the actual word choices, the syntax? Is it the emotion evoked by those words? Is it the importance of those words to the storyline? Or could it be just that you know how hard you struggled to get that passage right? Possibly, it’s a combination of many or all of those things.
Though they were among my favorites, obviously, I didn’t want to select passages that revealed key plot elements. (I hate when they do that in movie trailers.) I found myself choosing mainly solemn parts, like this:
It had been a long time since she pulled out, dusted off, and examined the memory of her life immediately following Stephen’s death. At first, grief covered her like skin, defining her, holding her together. Gradually, it sloughed off, and collected into another form—pain without warning, like a cat hiding under the bed reaching out its paw to swat her when she least expected it. Finally, it ceased breathing and became only an object, a fact of her life, but that object cast a shadow—the dark, formless absence of Stephen. This shadow lay over her so long she became oblivious to its presence. Then Jalal lifted it like a veil, and now she craved this new sun-filled life.
Yet, he haunted her. When she sat alone in the kitchen, the scent of his spices wafted around her. When she walked down the hall, her heels echoed his voice from the living room. While she worked in her garden, his beautiful herb pots accused her. When she woke in the night, for just a moment, she felt his weight beside her. Here, a dried pouf of blue where his can of shaving gel had sat. There, a word he jotted on the scratch pad on the desk—Halcyon. Everywhere traces of him remained, if only she looked close enough.
And she did.
But Brevity’s not all deep and dark, so I looked for something light-hearted, with dialogue, and chose this:
Renee arrived precisely on time, and entered the house without knocking. Jalal noted she wore one of those soft summer dresses instead of her usual tee and shorts. And her hair—set free again—cascaded to her waist. “I didn’t know what we were having for dinner,” she said, setting two bottles on the counter, “so I brought a red and a white.”
Jalal glanced at the labels. “You have excellent taste in wine.”
“No,” she said. “I just used to work in an excellent upscale restaurant.”
“I am preparing fish, so the Sauv Blanc will be perfect.”
“You really cook?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, “it keeps me from starving.”
“Funny. So, you’re a gourmet cook, a renowned poet, a financial genius. What other talents do you have?” She pinched a bite of salad. “Mmmm, that’s good.”
“Thank you. The dressing is my own recipe.”
Jalal glanced up, eyebrows raised.
“I asked what other talents you have.”
He shook his head. “I do not even claim the three you think I have.”
“Well, I’ll judge the first one for myself tonight, but the other two are common knowledge.”
“Oh, yes … what would we do without Wikipedia?”
“Smart ass,” she said.
“Now, that one, I will claim.”
Then, my friend Kasie suggested one of her favorite “fun” scenes. It’s not only fun, but it illustrates the dynamic between Jalal and his mother and sisters, as well as the beginning of Meredith’s attraction to his family. You can read that here: Jalal and the Carpet Weaver’s Daughter. Enjoy.
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