This was another one that I read during my week of being sick. This review took so long to write because I kept going back and forth on how I wanted to present it. It was really hard to write because the entire book was written so beautifully and it was really hard to not just type out the entire book for you so that you could also experience how beautiful the words are stringed together to form a picture, a feeling.
This book was so beautiful and so unexpectedly sad. No spoilers, but I was so surprised at the ending and who the narrator was this entire time. The ending was so beautiful, that I actually ended up shedding a few tears.
The novel is set in a prison, the enchanted place, where it also houses the death row inmates and the lady, we never know her name, works to get them off of death row. I really enjoyed the capturing of prison life, of life in general, of reading, of love, and death, through the narrator, one of the inmates sentenced to death.
I couldn’t decide how I wanted to do this so, I just left all my thoughts and passages that I loved without editing them.
- they have been talking, low and soft, their voices sliding like a river current that stops outside my cell. When I hear them talk, I think of rain and water and crystal-clear rivers, and when I hear them pause, it is like the cascade of water over the falls
- when she laughs, you can hear the wind in the trees and the splash of of water hitting pavement
- she says her new client’s name. it drops like a gem from her mouth
- the lady is one of the few who call us by our names
- inside, the lies you tell become the person you become. On the outside, sun and reality shrink people back to their actual size. In here, people grow into their shadows
- though he lives inside this enchanted place, he doesn’t see the enchantment in the lady; he doesn’t see the enchantment in here or anywhere.
- I read my favourite books over and over again and each time found new things inside them, as if the writers had put in new words in my absence.
- the library became my sanctuary. I loved the ways the precious stories took shape but always had room to be read again.
- there are some things people lie about in here – okay, people lie about most things in here. But there is one thing on death row that no one lies about, and that is what they saw in those scraps of sky.
- “It isn’t just the torture,” [York] says, “being locked in a cage. It’s never being allowed to touch anyone or go outside or breathe fresh air. I’d like to feel the sun again just once.”
- “I’m tired of being meaningless” – York
- “When you kill people, it is supposed to make sense. But it doesn’t. It never does.” – York
- they want a visit from their mom that involves a touch. They want to stand in the sun, to play a game of ball, to eat at a table with other men, to see the sky and feel the wind. Those are their dreams, maybe small to others, but huge to them.
- “But I imagine he knows magic, if he is reading books. The book itself doesn’t matter. It’s that he found another world in it.” – the lady
- she got over her fears in the way she gets over everything – she pretends they don’t exist.
- her eyes are filled with a strange sort of wondrous sadness, as if marveling at all the beauty and pain in the world.
- I retreat from my bars, wondering why people who live outside choose such ugly words. Maybe that is what happens when you are outside, and the world clangs and barrels and shouts twenty-four hours a day, from your radio, your television, your wife, your neighbor, the lawn mower down the street, and the scream of airplanes from the sky. Maybe then you use ugly words to tell life to shut up.
- she thinks about how sad it is that we remember the killers and not their victims. What if we forgot Hitler and remembered all the names of his victims? What if we immortalized the victims?
- if there are things inside us too tiny to see, might there be things outside us too big to believe?
- everything was sacred when nothing was taken for granted, she thinks ruefully.
- I think it is because souls give bodies lightness and air. When the soul leaves, the body has nothing left and is desperate to return to the earth. That’s why it’s so heavy
- from her own history, she knows how strong that castle has to be, how deep its moat of protection has to be to let a grown child tell the world buried secrets
- she has come to believe that the homes of sad or hateful people smell different. When ppl have sadness or hate inside them, it comes out in miasma.
- she cannot stop them all from dying, and soon she knows that the noises of their breathing and snoring and pleas behind bars are all pathetic offerings against the reality of time running out. She cannot begin to care who breathes and who dies down here, because if she did, it would crush her.
- “Love isn’t stopped by illness” – the lady
- the truth is, clocks don’t tell time. Time is measured in meaning…it is meaning that drives most people forward into time, and it is meaning that reminds them of the past, so they know where they are in the universe
- the lady is searching for time. She is searching for a way to tether herself to someone. Deep in her secret heart, in her pure place she protects, she is afraid she will always be alone – that she will go through life without being known. And she will not survive that.
- with every exhalation, I find a way out of this enchanted place. My breath rises to the clouds, and some time, microscopic particle joins with the clouds and condenses, and when it rains, that tiny part of me is returned to this earth – far away, maybe, in another place like China.
- he [the warden] wonders why so many easily accept death when it’s caused by old age or cancer or even suicide, yet refuse to endorse death by execution. It seems wrong to him. No one deserves death more than someone like York or Striker or especially Arden. And yet those are the deaths that others will say are unnatural, not that of his dear sweet wife, a woman who raised three kids and never did anyone a wrong pass.