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by Jodi Picoult
p.50 Kidney donation is considered relatively safe surgery, but if you ask me, the writer must have been comparing it to something like a heart-lung transplant, or some brain tumor removal. In my opinion, safe surgery is the kind where you go into the doctor's office and you're awake the whole time and the procedure is finished in five minutes—live when you have a wart removed or a cavity drilled. On the other hand, when you donate a kidney, you might spend the night before the operation fasting and taking laxatives. You're given anesthesia, the risks of which can include stroke, heart attack, and lung problems. The four-hour surgery isn't a walk in the park either—you have a 1 in 3,000 chance of dying on the operating table. If you don't, you are hospitalized for four to seven days, although it takes for to six weeks to fully recover. And that doesn't even include the long-term effects: an increased chance of high-blood pressure, a risk of complications with pregnancy, a recommendation to refrain from activities where your lone remaining kidney might be damaged.
Then again, when you get a wart removed or a cavity drilled, the only person who benefits in the long run is yourself.
p.52-53 Did my parents do this when I came along? Did my father send out smoke signals; did he count my fingers and toes, sure he'd come up with the finest number in the universe? Did my mother kiss the top of my head and refuse to let the nurse take me away to be cleaned up? Or did they simply hand me away, since the real prize had been clamped between my belly and the placenta?
The new father finally hangs up the phone, laughing at absolutely nothing. "Congratulations," I say, when what I really want to tell him is to pick up that baby of his and hold her tight, to set the moon on the edge of her crib and to hang her name up in stars so that she never, ever does to him what I have done to my parents.
p.65 Brian, who has to leave the room if one of our children gets a stomach virus, is a model of efficiency: wiping her forehead, holding her thin shoulders, dabbing tissues around her mouth. "You can get through this," he murmurs to her each time she spits up, but he may only be talking to himself.
And I, too, am surprising myself. With grim resolve I make a ballet out of rinsing the emesis basin and brining it back. If you focus on sandbagging the beachhead, you can ignore the tsunami that's approaching.
Try it any other way, and you'll go crazy.
p.75 Taking a deep breath, I shake my head and find Judge staring at me. "Reason number 106 why dogs are smarter than humans," I say. "Once you leave the litter, you sever contact with your mothers."
p.76 Rosie's is what Starbucks wishes it was: eclectic and funky, crammed with patrons who at any time might be reading Russian lit in its original tongue or balancing a company's budget on a laptop or writing a screenplay while mainlining caffeine. Judge and I usually walk there and sit at our usual table, in the back. We order a double espresso and two chocolate croissants, and we flirt shamelessly with Ophelia, the twenty-year-old waitress. But today, when we walk inside, Ophelia is nowhere to be found and there is a woman sitting at our table, feeding a toddler in a stroller a bagel. This throws me for such a loop that Judge needs to tug me to the only spot that's free, a stool at the counter that looks out on the street.
p.77 Unlike my normal table, this one has a view of the street. I watch an elderly lady narrowly avoid the swipe of a taxi; a boy dances past with a radio three times the size of his head balanced on one shoulder. Twins in parochial school uniforms giggle behind the pages of a teen magazine. And a woman with a running river of black hair spills coffee on her skirt, dropping the paper cup on the pavement.
p.91 Is there any place on earth that smells better than a Laundromat? It's like a rainy Sunday when you don't have to get out from under your covers, or like lying back on the grass your father's just mowed—comfort food for your nose. When I was little my mom would take hot clothes out of the dryer and dump them on the top of where I was sitting on the couch. I used to pretend they were a single skin, that I was curled tight beneath them like one large heart.
The other thing I like is that Laundromats draw lonely people like metal to magnets. There's a guy passed out on a bank of chairs in the back, with army book and a T-shirt that says Nostradamus was an Optimist. A woman at the folding table sifts through a heap of men's button-down shirts, sniffing back tears. Put ten people together in a Laundromat and chances are you won't be the one who's worst off.
p.105 Since Day Six, when Kate's white blood cell and neutrophil counts began to plummet, she has been in reverse isolation. Any germ in the world might kill her now; for this reason, the world is made to keep its distance. Visitors to her room are restricted. And those who are allowed in look like spacemen, gowned and masked. Kate has to read picture books while wearing rubber gloves. No plants or flowers are permitted, because they carry bacteria that could kill her. Any toy given to her must be scrubbed down with antiseptic solution first. She sleeps with her teddy bear, sealing in a Ziploc bag, which rustles and sometimes keeps her up.
p.120 When you get right down to it, the Wheeler School was a factory, pumping out debutantes and future investment bankers. We all looked alike and talked alike. To us, summer was a verb.
p. 124 "Do you have kids?" Anna asks.
I laugh. "What do you think?"
"It's probably a good thing," she admits. "No offense, but you don't exactly look like a parent."
That fascinates me. "What do parents look like?"
She seems to think about this. "You know how the tightrope guy at the circus wants everyone to believe that his act is an art, but deep down you can see that he's really just hoping he makes it all the way across? Like that."
p.128 "I have six wives, fifteen children, and an assortment of sheep." –Campbell
p.138 I have not seen her look this scared since we were little, and Jesse convinced us that an old Indian ghost had come back to claim the bones buried by mistake under our house.
p.142 Once, in second grade, Kate drew a picture of a firefighter with a halo above his helmet. She told her class that I would only be allowed to go to Heaven, because if I went to Hell, I'd put out all the fires.
I still have that picture.
p.148"Anna's named after a galaxy," Brian says.
"That's much cooler than being named after a patron saint," I muse. "Once I asked my mom why stars shine. She said they were night-lights, so the angels could find their way around in Heaven. But when I asked my dad, he started talking about gas, and somehow I put it all together and figured that the food God served caused multiple trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night."
p.161 "You can pretty much form an opinion about Jesse in the first thirty seconds you spend with him. He gets into a lot of bad stuff that he shouldn't."
"You mean drugs, alcohol?"
"Keep going," Kate says.
"Has that been hard for your family to deal with?"
"Well, yeah. But I don't really think it's something he does on purpose. It's the way he gets noticed, you know? I mean, imagine what it would be like if you were a squirrel living in the elephant cage at the zoo. Does anyone ever go there and say, Hey, check out that squirrel? No, because there's something so much bigger you notice first." Kate runs her fingers up and down one of the tubes sprouting out of her chest. "Sometimes it's shoplifting, and sometimes it's getting drunk. Last year, it was an anthrax hoax."
p.183 My father stands up and holds out his hand. We walk out of the Garrahy Complex, side by side. The reporters come on live wolves, but this time, their questions bounce right off me. My chest feels full of glitter and helium, the way it used to when I was little and riding my father's shoulders at twilight, when I knew that if I held up my hands and spread my fingers like a net, I could catch the coming stars.
p.184 There may be a special corner of Hell for attorneys who are shamelessly self-aggrandizing, but you can bet we all are ready for our close-ups.
p.184 In that special corner of Hell, there's probably a throne for those of us who try to capitalize off our pro bono work.
p.190 I lean against the door again and cross my arms, so that my biceps flex. I give her the grin that's stopped half the female population of Roger Williams University in their tracks. "You got plans for tonight?"
"She stares at me like I've just spoken Greek. Martian. Or freaking Vulcan. "Are you asking me out on a date?"
"I'm sure as hell trying," I say.
"You're sure as hell failing," she responds flatly. "I'm old enough to be your mother."
"You have the most fantastic eyes." By eyes, I mean tits, but whatever.
p.205 "What if," I said, "she was just some kid who got herself in trouble, and came up with an ingenious way out of it?"
Julia nearly choked. "I think they can even throw you out of the Episcopalian Church for that one, Campbell."
"Think about it—you're thirteen, or however old they were back then when they were shacking up—and you have a nice little roll in the hay with Joseph, and before you know it your EPT is coming up positive. You can either face your father's wrath, or you can spin a good story. Who's going to contradict you if you say God's the one who knocked you up? Don't you think Mary's dad was thinking, 'I could ground her… but what if that causes a plague?' "
p.243 Driving a dump truck turns out to be a hell of a lot different that driving my car. First, you fill up the whole freaking road. Second, it handles like a tank, or at least like what I suppose a tank would handle like if you didn't have to join an army full of uptight, power-crazy assholes to drive one. Third—and least palatable—people see you coming. When I roll up to the underpass where Duracell Dan makes his cardboard home, he cowers behind his line of thirty-three gallon drums. "Hey," I say, swinging out of the cab or the truck. "It's just me."
It still takes Dan a minute to peek behind his hands, make sure I'm telling the truth. "Like my rig?" I ask.
He gets up gingerly and touches the streaked side of the truck. Then he laughs. "Your Jeep been taking steroids, boy."
p.245 Well, I don't need to tell you that eleven-year-old budding derelicts and house rules are like oil and water. By the end of my first week with this board I thought I'd rather slide down a razor blade into alcohol than tool up and down the sidewalk yet one more time with all the toddlers on their Big Wheels.
p.246 The thing about the flame is that it's insidious—it sneaks, it licks, it looks over its shoulder and laughs. And fuck, it's beautiful.
p.249 Did you ever wonder how we all got here? On Earth, I mean. Forget the song and dance about Adam and Eve, which I know is a load of crap. My father likes the myth of the Pawnee Indians, who say that the star deities populated the world: Evening Star and Morning Star hooked up and gave birth to the first female. The first boy came from the Sun and the Moon. Humans rode in on the back of a tornado.
Mr. Hume, my science teacher, taught us about this primordial soup full of natural gases and muddy slop and carbon matter that somehow solidified into one-celled organisms called choanoflagellates… which sounded a lot more like a sexually transmitted disease than the start of the evolutionary chain, in my opinion. But even once you get there, it's a huge leap from an amoeba to a monkey to a whole thinking person.
p.256 If there was a religion of Annaism, and I had to tell you how humans made their way onto the Earth, it would go like this in the beginning, there was nothing at all but the moon and the sun. And the moon wanted to come out during the day, but there was something so much brighter that seemed to fill up all those hours. The moon grew hungry, thinner and thinner, until she was just a slice of herself, and her tips were as sharp as a knife. By accident, because that is the way most things happen, she poked a hole in the night and spilled out a million stars, like a fountain of tears.
Horrified, the moon tried to swallow them up. And sometimes this worked, because she got fatter and rounder. But mostly it didn't, because there were just so many. The stars kept coming until they made the sky so bright that the sun got jealous. He invited the stars to his side of the world, where it was always bright. What he didn't tell them, though, was that in the daytime, they'd never be seen. So the stupid ones leaped from the sky to the ground, and they froze under the weight of their own foolishness.
The moon did her best. She carved each of these blocks of sorrow into a man or a woman. She spent the rest of her time watching out so that her other stars wouldn't fall. She spent the rest of her time holding on to whatever scraps she had left.
p.272 Here's my question: What age are you when you're in Heaven? I mean, if it's Heaven, you should be at your beauty-queen best, and I doubt that all the people who die of old age are wondering around toothless and bald. It opens up a whole additional realm of questions, too. If you hang yourself, do you walk around all gross and blue, with your tongue spitting out of your mouth? If you are killed in a war, do you spend eternity minus the leg that got blown up by a mine?
I figure that maybe you get a choice. You fill out the application form that asks you if you want a star view or a cloud view, if you like chicken or fish or manna for dinner, what age you'd like to be seen as by everyone else. Like me, for example, I might pick seventeen, in the hopes I grow boobs by then, and even if I'm a pruny centegenarian by the time I die, in Heaven I'd be young and pretty.
p.280 You can take the pink hair dye out of the girl, but you never lose those roots."
p.290 A girl with a great ass jogs by, holding on to the leash of one of those froufrou dogs that looks more like a cat.
p.301 "Dr. Bergen," Campbell starts, "what's an ethics committee?"
"A diverse group of doctors, RNs, clergy, ethicists, and scientists who are assigned to review individual case and protect patients' rights. In Western Bioethics, there are six principles we try to follow.' He ticks them off on his fingers. "Autonomy, or the idea that any patient over age eighteen has the right to refuse treatment; veracity, which is basically informed consent; fidelity—this is, a health-care provider fulfilling his duties; beneficence, or doing what's in the best interests of the patient; nonmaleficence—when you can no longer do good, you shouldn't do harm… like performing major surgery on a terminal patient who's 102 years old; and finally, justice—that no patient should be discriminated against in receiving treatment."
"What does an ethics committee do?"
"Generally, we're called to convene when there's a discrepancy about patient care. For example, if a physician feels it's in the patient's best interests to go on with extraordinary measure, and the family doesn't—or vice versa."
p.323 The summer I was fourteen my parents sent me to boot camp on a farm. It was one of those action-adventures for troubled kids, you know, get up at four A.M. to do the milking and how much trouble can you really get into? (The answer, if you're interested: score pot off the ranch hands. Get stoned. Tip cows.)
p.341 "A little fire is quickly trodden out;
Which, being suffered, rivers can not quench." –William Shakespeare, King Henry VI
p.360 I lean against my sister's shoulder. "I thought lightning wasn't supposed to strike in the same place twice."
"Sure it does," Izzy tells me. "But only if you're too dumb to move."
p.380 Two thousand years ago the night sky looked completely different, and so when you get right down to it, the Greek conceptions of star signs as related to birth dates are grossly inaccurate for today's day an age. It's called the Line of Procession: back then the sun didn't set in Taurus, but in Gemini. A September 24 birthday didn't mean you were a Libra, but a Virgo. And there was a thirteenth zodiac constellation, Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer, who rose between Sagittarius and Scorpio for only four days.
the reason it's all kilter? The earth's axis wobbles. Life isn't nearly as stable as we want it to be.
p.417 In the English language there are orphans and widows, but there is no word for the parent who loses a child.
p.419 When along the pavement,
Palpitating flames of life,
People flicker round me,
I forget my bereavement,
The gap in the great constellation,
The place where a star used to be.
--D. H. Lawrence, "Submergence"