It has been months since I read this book, but I can still vividly recall so much of it. Beautifully written without being overwrought, the story is full of insights about family, love, immigration, aging, and more. My copy is littered with Post-It flags marking favorite passages.
This book also happens to be written by my friend Natalia Sylvester, who I greatly admire for her talent, her intelligence, her kindness, and her advocacy.
“You’ll grow slowly, and then all at once.”
“Remember how you used to blow bubbles into your drink through a straw? That’s how the first few kicks will feel.”
“After you give birth, every inch of you will be exhausted and in pain except for your heart.”
“When he cries, remember your body used to be his whole world. Cherish the moments he cries for you, but let him go a little more each day.”
This rings so true to my experiences with pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. A good reminder, as I approach the arrival of my second child.
“Who do you think he’ll be like?” he had asked Elda that day at the hospital. “More you or me?”
“Both. And neither. I think that’s the whole point,” she’d said.
So many people — including myself — like to play this game with children. Who are they more like, mom or dad? Well she’s got mom’s eyes, but dad’s nose. Or dad’s stubbornness, and mom’s fondness for sweets.
But what I find so amazing now — watching my own daughter grow up, as well as my friends’ kids — is how the combination of two people creates something entirely new and unique. IB is not a mini-me or a mini-Andy. She’s herself. More and more each day.
“‘Some people have holes in their hearts not even time can fill, but that doesn’t mean they’re broken.’”
Beautiful and true.
Isabel wondered if wanting to be happy for someone counted as being happy for them.
Intentions versus reality. I’m necessarily not proud to say, I’ve felt this gap in my own emotions many times. Less so, the older I get. But still.
“Decisions are not the same as choices.”
I don’t know if I ever contemplated that distinction quite so clearly before, but I thought about it a lot after reading this line.
Sometimes you have to make a decision even when all your choices are bad. Sometimes you have to make a decision even when you have no choices at all.
“I’m proud of you,” he said.
“For what? I haven’t done anything yet.”
“You’ve done everything. You are everything.”
In a society that often seems obsessed with accomplishment, this feels like such a radical expression of love and worth. It really affected me.
Grief is never really gone; it is just a darkness you eventually adjust to.
Grief is one of the themes of my work-in-progress, so I’m always interested in how other people experience and describe it.
“Life is shit, but it’s fucking beautiful.”
I also really enjoyed this: “Can You Just Trust That We’re Human? The Millions Interviews Natalia Sylvester”
There is so much responsibility to writing. Even when you’re saying, I just want to write a book that’s fun for someone. A book can have the power, while being entertaining, to change how a person thinks or lay the groundwork for it or make them say, “I never thought of that before. Let me delve into that a little more.” So, it’s something that needs to be done very carefully. I know there’s some resistance to that, as if it’s telling someone what to think. People tend to react against it as if it’s censorship.
This is art, but it’s a powerful art, and so how about wielding it well? It’s about the craft, too. It’s going to make all of the book stronger. In the revision, it’s a step back, of thinking, what am I trying to say and what have I said? You can never know completely, obviously, because people are going to interpret everything a lot of different ways, but you try to do your best.
On her exploration of immigration, both as a writer and as an immigrant herself:
You leave a whole country, you leave your home. Immigration also means a death. You’re leaving one life for another. You’re ending this whole life and existence that you had in order to hopefully live this new one. So, what’s the tradeoff. What’s lost in that trade?