It’s still early December, but I’m fairly certain I’ve rounded out my reading of 2015 titles. Everything I have set aside for the rest of the year (and I do mean set aside, since books are being shoved into moving boxes) is either pre or post-2015, so it seems safe to list my favorite fiction. Just like last year, my reviews are already glowing, so I’m sharing some favorite quotes.
I knew last December, when I lost four days to A Little Life, that I found my favorite book of 2015. And I had. But I didn’t expect Sara Taylor’s novel in stories to come charging in halfway through the year and completely blow me away. I don’t usually rank my best books of the year, but I feel like I have to give an extra nod to The Shore. I’m sure you’ll see dozens (hundreds?) of lists with Hanya Yanagihara’s incredibly deserving novel near the top—The Shore sits right beside it on mine.
“In the first months without him, Edith had marveled at how many different types of quiet there could be. What had been so different about the levels of noise with him sitting in the chair, reading for hours in his drugstore glasses? Why did every shower, now, feel like such an exercise in fallacy, preparation for an event never coming, though this had always been a lone ritual?”
“And yet, a divide existed between them, one that the god could not breach, despite his power, knowledge and subtlety: death. On one side, the immortals. On the other, these beings. He could no more understand what it was to live with death than they could what it was to exist without it. It was this difference that fascinated him and kept him coming back to earth.”
“But for one brief moment, in the rain and mud, I saw a world where everyone was struggling in the body he or she’d been given. That world and struggle seemed bearable to me, and even beautiful.”
“Clara laid a hand across her eyes and there was her mother, Sweetland thought. Clara had almost nothing else of Ruth in her, but that subtle gesture of exhaustion or anxiety or annoyance was Sweetland’s sister to a T. He took the meat across the kitchen to the freezer, to put a little more space between himself and that eerie transformation.”
“‘Is there a difference between shame and guilt?’ Anna asked. ‘Shame is psychic extortion,’ Doktor Messerli answered. ‘Shame lies. Shame a woman and she will believe she is fundamentally wrong, organically delinquent. The only confidence she will have will be in her failures. You will never convince her otherwise.'”
“Maybe she felt caught between two worlds, too. Maybe she knew how often she was denied direct experience because she looked like someone who had to be protected.”
“They handed over spider plants in terra-cotta, six-packs, books, bottles of wine. Yuppies in embryo, miming their parents’ manners.”
“On the wall above the children, there was a poster:
BE SURE TO EAT THREE HOURS
BEFORE DONATING BLOOD
What’s it like to eat three hours? She was feeling impish. How do they taste? Like cotton candy or grass or concrete?”
“Maybe one day you’ll learn to read his moods better, learn to sense when he’s running out of patience, learn to stop pushing him until the storm comes. There will be bruises, on your arms and other not so visible places, in the morning, and neither Stella nor Ellie nor any of the people you see throughout the day will say a word about them, the way you never say a word when Ellie’s skin blooms purple-green. Even so, you know they’ll see and wonder what you said, what you did, and how you failed to keep it together this time.”
“And although he hadn’t fretted over whether his life was worthwhile, he had always wondered why he, why so many others, went on living at all; it had been difficult to convince himself at times, and yet so many people, so many millions, billions of people, lived in misery he couldn’t fathom, with deprivations and illnesses that were obscene in their extremity. And yet on and on and on they went. So was the determination to keep living not a choice at all, but an evolutionary implementation? Was there something in the mind itself, a constellation of neurons as toughened and scarred as tendon, that prevented humans from doing what logic so often argued they should? And yet that instinct wasn’t infallible—he had overcome it once. But what had happened to it after? Had it weakened, or become more resilient? Was his life even his to choose to live any longer?”