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270 pages, Hardcover
First published March 25, 2008
“… her ankles puffed out, her shoulders rolled up behind her neck, and her wrists and hands seemed to become the size of a man’s. Olive minds – of course, she does; sometimes, privately, she minds very much. But at this stage of the game, she is not about to abandon the comfort of food, and that means right now she probably looks like a fat dozing seal wrapped in some kind of gauze bandage.”Olive has a formidable presence and a complexity that is intriguing and undefinable. While she offers minimal filter in her comments and consideration of others and thinks it ludicrous to cry at weddings, she cries when she sees a young anorexic girl, Nina.
“Olive shook her head again, blew her nose. She looked at Nina and said quietly, ‘I don’t know who you are, but young lady, you’re breaking my heart.’
‘I’m not trying to,’ said Nina, defensively. ‘It’s not like I can help it.’
‘Oh, I know that. I know.’ Olive nodded.”
"Never trust folks," Olive's mother told her years ago, after someone left a basket of cow flaps by their front door. Henry got irritated by that way of thinking. But Henry was pretty irritating himself, with his steadfast way of remaining naive, as though life were just what a Sears catalogue told you it was: everyone standing around smiling.
She said: "You're the one who can't stand these Hail-Mary Catholics! Your mother taught you that! Pauline was the only real Christian in the world, as far as Pauline was concerned. And her good boy, Henry."
Sometimes, like now, Olive had a sense of just how desperately hard every person in the world was working to get what they needed. For most, it was a sense of safety, in the sea of terror that life increasingly became. People thought love would do it, and maybe it did. But […] it was never enough, was it?
In order to imagine what it feels like to be another person I have to use my own experiences and responses to the world. I have to pay attention to what I have felt and observed, then push these responses to an extreme while keeping the story within the realm of being psychologically and emotionally true.