It’s Grace here, writing at the end of my finals week while visiting my twin sister. Although I’m exhausted from the winter (and still have a ton to do), I’m enormously lucky to have the chance to see her again. I have to find time to write two papers and find something to do with my summer, since my internship recently fell through, but I’m excited to get to relax since this is the most soul-deep worn down I’ve ever been. I need to find a way to get back to graceness. Luckily, books are a good way to do that.
While I can’t quite dial everything back enough to just sink into reading, I’ve been chipping away at some recent favorites for some comfort. While I could go on forever about my love for the reads, I figured I’d go back to another aspect of these books I adore: the language.
At the end of the day, my favorite part of reading is finding lines that completely resonate with me. At the very least, gorgeous phrasing or articulate feelings. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite books with quotes that have affected me lately.
Excuse the scattered nature of my post — some images, some typed highlights. Just want to get to the heart of some excellent words.
It’s senior year, and while Kenzie should be looking forward to prom and starting college in the fall, she is mourning the loss of her father. She finds solace in the one person she trusts, her boyfriend, and she soon finds herself pregnant. Kenzie’s boyfriend and mother do not understand her determination to keep the baby. She is sent to southern Spain for the summer, where she will live out her pregnancy as a cook’s assistant on a bull ranch, and her baby will be adopted by a Spanish couple.
Alone and resentful in a foreign country, Kenzie is at first sullen and difficult. She begins to open her eyes and her heart to the beauty that is all around her and inside of her.
Small Damages is a sparse yet colorful coming-of-age that’s all-around stunning. Kenzie is emotionally mature and sorting through complex issues, but roots it all in her thoughtful, quiet reflections on Seville and the surrounding countryside.
I wish I could put every quote from this book into this post. Kephart has a way of making small moments resonant and powerful, and the imagery stays with you. Kenzie does too.
Novel: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger | Goodreads
Release Date: 1955
Publisher: Back Bay Books
The short story, Franny, takes place in an unnamed college town and tells the tale of an undergraduate who is becoming disenchanted with the selfishness and inauthenticity she perceives all around her.
The novella, Zooey, is named for Zooey Glass, the second-youngest member of the Glass family. As his younger sister, Franny, suffers a spiritual and existential breakdown in her parents’ Manhattan living room — leaving Bessie, her mother, deeply concerned — Zooey comes to her aid, offering what he thinks is brotherly love, understanding, and words of sage advice.
Salinger writes of these works: “FRANNY came out in The New Yorker in 1955, and was swiftly followed, in 1957 by ZOOEY. Both stories are early, critical entries in a narrative series I’m doing about a family of settlers in twentieth-century New York, the Glasses. It is a long-term project, patently an ambiguous one, and there is a real-enough danger, I suppose that sooner or later I’ll bog down, perhaps disappear entirely, in my own methods, locutions, and mannerisms. On the whole, though, I’m very hopeful. I love working on these Glass stories, I’ve been waiting for them most of my life, and I think I have fairly decent, monomaniacal plans to finish them with due care and all-available skill.”
Franny and Zooey Oxford Exchange can be pretentious at times (come on — it’s Salinger!) but it brings up one of the most philosophically fascinating topics I’ve ever encountered. When we did this for an teen book club pick that I moderated in high school, the conversation constantly unspooled and re-complicated itself. Are you a good person if you’re aware of it?
It focuses on two siblings who were raised in a religious hodgepodge of philosophies and now find themselves dazed about what to believe. It’s not so much religious as it is existential, and moral. Actions speak louder than words, but do actions speak louder than intention? If you’re doing selfless acts and feel satisfied after, does that defeat the purpose — since technically, the act then becomes selfish as it results in your own happiness? (I’m fascinated by narcissism, and have read some interesting books on the subject.)
I’ll probably circle back around to this read just to talk about some of the bigger themes in it — which continually change my perspective, since I’ve gotten older — but for now, here are some of my favorite quotes.
“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”
“It’s everybody, I mean. Everything everybody does is so — I don’t know — not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless and — sad-making. And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you’re conforming just as much only in a different way.”
Some of my friends like to tell me that I overthink, which is true, but Franny overthinks more than anybody.
Novel: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta | Goodreads
Release Date: May 9, 2006
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian’s, a boys’ school that pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas, who specializes in musical burping, to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about.
Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling of who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.
A compelling story of romance, family, and friendship with humor and heart, perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Lauren Myracle.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Marchetta’s later book, Jellicoe Road, which is more larger-than-life. Saving Francesca is much more subtle, but equally important. She has a way of getting to the heart of things, of stripping down a lot of emotional issues that are part of a coming-of-age, rendering them in a plainspoken way that still has gravitas.
These underlines are from the first time I read Saving Francesca over a year ago. I’m rereading it now, and there are so many more that I’ve highlighted (on an eBook version from the library, since my paperback copy is at home), but I forget that quality of a book: that it can change and take on new layers as I get older and have new experiences. Different lines jump out at me each time.
Each one of these quoted books is one of my favorites for vastly different reasons, but I hope you get the same satisfaction from some of the quotes that I do — and that you might encounter them on your own! I’m hoping to do some more language centric posts in the upcoming weeks, to spotlight books that have extraordinary phrasing.