"I don't know," Merrin said. "I sure hope so, since it's one of my favorites!"
I emailed her from a train in Germany to say, Have started to love this book. Emailed her again to say, NO REALLY IT IS 100% AWESOME.
When I got back from Europe, she said, "When did you realize you were going to like it?"
"On page 62," I replied.
Merrin laughed at me -- "On page 62? What??" -- but seriously, this is where I first got the sense that I was going to like this book a whole lot, and it is indeed on page 62 (of my copy, anyway):
She had been a virgin when she married and had humbly submitted to her husband's brutal love. His brutality early killed all of her latent desires. Yet she could understand the fierce love hunger that made girls--as people put it--go wrong. She understood how a boy who had been driven from the neighborhood for rape could still be a good boy at heart. She understood why people had to lie and steal and harm one another. She knew of all pitiful human weaknesses and of many cruel strengths.
Yet she could not read or write.
And this is where I began to fall in love with this book (pages 72-73 of my copy):
And the child, Francie Nolan, was all of the Rommelys and all of the Nolans. She had the violent weaknesses and passion for beauty of the shanty Nolans. She was a mosaic of her grandmother Rommely's mysticism, her tale-telling, her great belief in everything and her compassion for the weak ones. She had a lot of her grandfather Rommely's cruel will. She had some of her Aunt Evy's talent for mimicking, some of Ruthie Nolan's possessiveness. She had Aunt Sissy's love for life and her love for children. She had Johnny's sentimentality without his good looks. She had all of Katie's soft ways and only half of the invisible steel of Katie. She was made up of all of these good and these bad things.
She was made up of more, too. She was the books she read in the library. She was the flower in the brown bowl. Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard. She was the bitter quarrels she had with her brother whom she loved dearly. She was Katie's secret, despairing weeping. She was the shame of her father staggering home drunk.
She was all of these things and of something more that did not come from the Rommelys or the Nolans, the reading, the observing, the living from day to day. It was something that had been born into her and her only--the something different from anyone in the two families. It was what God or whatever is His equivalent puts into each soul that is given life--the one different thing such as that makes no two fingerprints on the face of the earth alike.