The house is quiet. I’m reading a really good book. In fact, I’m buried in it. As I read, I come upon a sentence that sends an Oh! to a little niche in my brain. There the sentence lights up like a Broadway marquee. Boom! It’s worthy of having the page corner folded down. I may want to read that sentence again. Later. You never know.
Within a book’s pages, skillfully chosen words blend into sentences designed to create an image, shed light on a character, hone an idea or heighten meaning. As I read Eleanor Morse’s moving story, White Dog Fell from the Sky, I turned down the corner on several pages.
By way of background, the novel is set in Botswana in 1976 near the South African border. Apartheid is law in South Africa. Not in Botswana. You feel the land, learn of the people, experience the upheaval of beliefs as three characters – Isaac Muthethe, Alice Mendelssohn, and Ian Henry – live the times. (You can read more about the novel by clicking on my Books Page above.)
On page 8, the author creates this image after Isaac has been smuggled across the border from South Africa into Botswana. The words seem to refer to a truck but enhance the bigger backdrop of dangerous times in both countries; of wounds and beasts in Isaac’s background:
Isaac heard a rumble in the distance, and as he emerged from the bush he was enveloped in the dust of a three-ton truck traveling south in the direction of Lobatse, sliding through the sand like a wounded beast.
Instead of writing that Ian Henry sleeps badly and looks like hell the next morning, Morse writes on page 163:
So he left it and went to his room and thrashed under mosquito netting until the night was used up and its scraps had smudged into dark shadows under his eyes.
As he and Alice begin an affair, Ian Henry thinks about his wife and her problems. On page 242 is this description of depression. It made me ache:
He knew nothing about depression, had never felt that hopeless, subbasement mildew of spirit.
Throughout the book, Morse uses word-paint such as this on page 244:
The sun went down. Deep purple swept over blue, followed by purple charcoal, then black. The night grew cold.
I like and appreciate sentences in a story that resonate and deepen the experience. How about you, in your current reading? Are there any sentences that really light up?