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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two Must-Read Quotes from "A Thread of Grace"

I'm currently reading A THREAD OF GRACE by Mary Doria Russell and this book is fantastic.
I'm leading an online discussion of this book at the Google Group for Reading With Becky this month which means that I'm slowing down my reading pace and examining different passages more closely than I normally would. This book is so good that I could have sped through it in just a few days. Instead I'm splitting it up throughout the month so we can discuss it in reasonable chunks.

Anyway, I can across the following quote in the 2nd quarter of the book (page 114) and it has really stuck with me. The characters are a Jewish father, Albert, and his 15 year old daughter, Claudette. It is 1943 and they are in Italy, hiding in the forest from the Germans. Claudette is trying to convince her father that it is safe to go into the nearby town.
"They’re ignorant, Claudette. […] They think we poison wells! They think we murder babies and use their blood to make matzoh! They hate us–”

“Name two.”

Albert blinks.

“Whenever we said ‘they,’ Mama told us to name two. […] Mama said if you can’t name two actual real people, then you’re just being prejudiced. So name two peasants who hate us. […] Mama said.”

Albert sighs. “All right,” he says, capitulating to hunger, […] and the ethical precepts of a wife whose face is more difficult to conjure as each day passes.
Is it just me, or is that a powerful statement? What an amazing lesson Claudette's mother taught her. And Albert not being able to clearly remember his wife's face? Heartbreaking.

There is another quote I really love that can be found on page 177. It does have some profanity in it, so be forewarned. In this quote, Renzo, a Jewish Italian partisan, is talking to Don Osvaldo, a Catholic priest.
"You know what I think? Ten percent of any group of human beings are shitheads. Catholics, Jews. Germans, Italians. Pilots, priests. Teachers, doctors, shopkeepers. Ten percent are shitheads. Another ten percent – salt of the earth! Saints! Give you the shirts off their backs. Most people are in the middle, just trying to get by. […] You are a very dangerous man, Padre. You are an ordinary, decent fellow who aspires to saintliness."
I'm amazed by Renzo here. The Germans are harassing and murdering Jews - Renzo's family, friends, acquaintances - yet he doesn't classify the world as Germans vs. Jews. Instead he realizes that every group of people will have it's good and it's bad. Again, is it just me, or does this quote grab you as well?


Julia Smith said...

The top excerpt really touched me for the two reasons you mentioned.

And in other amazing news - congrats on your win for Best History/Historical Fiction Review Blog at BBAW!

Cathy said...

Congratulations on the award!! But the real reason why I stopped by was this book. I loved it!

Heather J. said...

Julia - Thanks for stopping by and commenting! This book is SO amazing, I'm finding more quotes every time I pick it up. (Oh, and thanks so much!)

Cathy - I'm so glad to find another fan - this book is fantastic. (and thanks!)

Lisa said...

Great quotes! I'm definitely going to have to check this one out. Probably literally since I've placed myself on a buying ban!

violetcrush said...

Aw..come on, come out with the review already :)

I'm loving all the tid bits of this book that you are throwing in. It's already on my wishlist.

Justin Narin said...

First Congrats on getting the award :) It is a kind a Deviation from your usual reviews, still enjoyed the snippets from the book.

Freedom Debt

Heather J. said...

Lisa - Libraries are a GOOD THING when you are on a buying ban!

violetcrush - I'm still reading but hopefully I'll have it up by the end of the month. :)

Justin - Thanks so much! Yes, I don't usually post quotes, but I'll still be doing my regular review once I finish reading.

Dreamybee said...

Love both of those. Funny that you picked the second one about people being sh*theads. One of the quotes that I earmarked in Russell's The Sparrow is about the prayer being worth it even if all it does is make one less of a sh*thead.

And, yes, congratulations on your BBAW win! I'm afraid I wasn't able to keep up with much of the BBAW goings-on, but I'm so glad to see that you won!

Heather J. said...

Dreamybee - I think I remember that quote from THE SPARROW - there were a lot of those really good quotes in that book, weren't there?

And thanks. :)

Trisha said...

Congrats on your awards! well-deserved. :) I have heard great things about this book from our associate publisher, so it will have to be added to my list. Sounds like it would make a good book club selection.

Heather J. said...

Trisha - Thanks so much. And you are right, this WOULD make an excellent book club book - there is so much to discuss in it.

Heather J. said...

Trisha - Thanks so much. And you are right, this WOULD make an excellent book club book - there is so much to discuss in it.

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