"There are times no, and my life has changed so completely, that I think back on the early years and I find myself thinking: It was not that bad. Perhaps it was not. But there are times, too - unexpected - when waling down a sunny sidewalk, or watching the top of a tree bend in the wind, or seeing a November sky close down over the East River, I am suddenly filled with knowledge of darkness so deep that a sound might escape from my mouth, and I will step into the nearest clothing store and talk with a strange about the shape of sweaters newly arrived. This must be the way most of us maneuver through the world, half knowing, half not, visited by memories that can't possibly be true. But when I see others walking with confidence down the sidewalk, as though they are free completely from terror, I realize I don't know how others are. So much of life seems speculation."
. . . .
"He asked what we ate when I was growing up. I did not say,'Mostly molasses on bread." I did say,'We had baked beans a lot.' And he said, 'What did you do after that, all hand around and fart?' Then I understood I would never marry him. It's funny how one thing can make you realize something like that. One can be ready to give up the children one always wanted, one can be ready to withstand remarks about one's past, or one's clothes, but then - a tiny remark and the soul deflates and say: Oh."
. . . .
"I had to sit in a chair at the nurses' station while I tried not to cry. Toothache put her arm around me, and even now I love her for that. I have sometimes been sad that Tennessee Williams wrote that line for Blanche DuBois,'I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.' Many of us have been saved many times by the kindness of strangers, but after awhile it wounds trite, like a bumper sticker. And that's what makes me sad, that a beautiful and true line comes to be used so often the it takes on the superficial sound of a bumper sticker."
. . . .
"I think of Jeremy telling me I had to be ruthless to be a writer. And I think how I did not go visit my brother and sister and my parents because I was always working on a story and there was never enough time. (But I didn't want to go either.) There was never enough time, and then later I knew if I stayed in my marriage I would not write another book, not the kind I wanted to, and there is that as well. But, really, the ruthlessness, I think, comes in grabbing onto myself, in saying: This is me, and I will not go where I can't bear to go - to Amgash, Illinois - and I will not stay in a marriage when I don't want to, and I will grab myself and hurl onward through life, blind as a bat, but on I go! This is the ruthlessness I think.
My mother told me in the hospital that day that I was not like my broth rand sister. 'Look at your life right now. You just want ahead and . . . did it.' Perhaps she meant that I was already ruthless. Perhaps she meant that, but I don't know what my mother meant."
- My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout