Favorite Lines (The Anniversary Edition) – The Sparrow

In honor of my wedding anniversary I share with you my favorite passage about marriage from one of my favorite books, The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell.  In my mind it is the most honest and true writing I have ever encountered about commitment and the realities of two people staying together.  I have been known to send it to friends when their marriages are in crisis.  (Because nothing gives comfort like a really long book passage.)  Anne Edwards is the narrator in this passage.  She’s married to George Edwards and is talking with their younger friend Jimmy Quinn.  Bear with me, because I think it’s worth the really long read.

“…we all make vows, Jimmy. And there is something very beautiful and touching and noble about wanting good impulses to be permanent and true forever,” she said. “Most of us stand up and vow to love, honor and cherish someone. And we truly mean it, at the time. But two or twelve or twenty years down the road, the lawyers are negotiating the property settlement.”

“You and George didn’t go back on your promises.”

She laughed. “Lemme tell ya something, sweetface. I have been married at least four times, to four different men.” She watched him chew that over for a moment before continuing, “They’ve all been named George Edwards but, believe me, the man who is waiting for me down the hall is a whole lot different animal from the boy I married, back before there was dirt. Oh, there are continuities. He has always been fun and he has never been able to budget his time properly and – well, the rest is none of your business.”

“But people change,” he said quietly.

“Precisely. People change. Cultures change. Empires rise and fall. Shit. Geology changes! Every ten years or so, George and I have faced the fact that we have changed and we’ve had to decide if it makes sense to create a new marriage between these two new people.” She flopped back against her chair. “Which is why vows are such a tricky business. Because nothing stays the same forever.” ― Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow

In my world, and I only have depth of vision into my own life, this is how marriage really works.  You make a vow and you spend the rest of your life together doing the best you can by that commitment given the people you become.  With me and Mr. Afthead there have been really hard times when we clung to each other, and other times when we pushed away.  There have been unexpected joyful times and well planned celebrations that fell flat.  There are times when our marriage works without a hitch.  There are other times when it is a deadly slog that we just have to get through.  Throughout it all we decide if the marriage makes sense with who we are in a given moment and in the foreseeable future.  So far, we’ve come out of that evaluation together every time.  It isn’t Romeo and Juliet, but it’s worked for us.

I hope I haven’t embarrassed you all with the deep romance that runs through the Afthead household.  Now off to go cook dinner for my snookems.  Also, there’s a card here somewhere I need to sign.

Love from the Aftheads!

Favorite Lines – Jim the Boy

“During the night something like a miracle happened: Jim’s age grew an extra digit.  He was nine years old when he went to sleep, but ten years old when he woke up.  The extra number had weight, like a muscle, and Jim hefted it like a prize.  The uncles’ ages each contained two numbers, and now Jim’s age contained two numbers as well.”

– Jim The Boy, by Tony Earley

I have not been a writer my whole life: I came to that lately.  I have been a reader my whole life, and since starting to put words to paper my love of books has grown.  I will be reading or listening to a book and have to stop to re-read or rewind a passage marveling at “how they put that”.  That said, I have always loved certain books and certain lines in certain books, so I thought I’d start to share some with you.  These phrases, they are my inspiration, and I’d love to share them with you.

This one is from Jim the Boy, by Tony Earley.  I haven’t read the book in forever, but I remember loving this line the first time I read it.  I even read it to my mom, my partner in book love, so she could hear how wonderful it was this first line in Book 1 of the novel.  Earley captures the magic of turning 10 from a child’s perspective in such a unique way.  While my daughter has always talked about how many years she has in fingers or hands, I love how Earley describes it in terms of digits, and how ten has the same number of digits as his uncles’ ages: so momentous and yet a mystery there.  Why uncles and not parents?  I tried to create a similar feel in my story The Fisherman.  Earley’s is much clearer though.  There is no question about how old Jim is or what Early is trying to convey.  But this writing thing, it’s all about learning right?

The book is a great read, and I’ve tucked it away in my backpack to enjoy again.  Watch for more favorite lines in future posts!


As I was perusing Longreads I clicked through to “The Books” by Alexander Chee.  While reading, I was struck by a need to jump up and examine our household Harry Potter collection and all the doubles, triples and quintuples contained therein.  My husband and I read all of the books, listened to all of the books and saw all of the movies numerous times. Away to the shelves I flew to start counting.

First to my collection.  The top shelf?  All the hardbound first editions of the collection.  (Yes, I know EVERYONE has a first edition of all the books.  Amazon brought them to your door at midnight in Harry Potter cardboard for goodness sake.)  Note the books are neither in chronological, size or color order.  That’s how I roll folks.  The collection is guarded by my hippo bookend.

Shelf two contains the real collection.  Book one and two from countries around the world.  It started when I was in Italy with my husband’s aunt.  The Chamber of Secrets was out and I wanted a memento from the trip, so I purchased the Italian version.  Next my husband purchased the German version for me when he was on a work trip, and a collection was born.  There are copies from Brazil, Japan, Korea, the UK (multiple copies of the same book) and Hungary.  They are not all purchased by us, but by friends and family as they traveled.  My favorite is the Chinese copy.  It’s the one in the paper bag.  Apparently there are black market copies of that book all over China and the only way to know it is authentic is if you buy it in the bag sealed with the special tape.  At least that’s what my dear friend who bought it told me, so it authentically remains in the paper bag with the tape hanging on for dear life.

Harry Potter from around the world
Afthead’s Harry Potter Collection

Oh, that thing on the left?  It’s a slide rule.  Never know when you’ll need one.

Next, to my husband’s collection.  It’s on his most special bookcase surrounded by sports memorabilia and his favorite series: The Dark Tower, Lord of the Rings, and Calvin and Hobbes.  His books are paperback, of course, because he hates reading hardcover books.  I honestly don’t know if he waited to read each book until the paperback came out.  How could anyone have that kind of patience?

Dark Tower, Lord of the Rings, Calvin and Hobbes and Harry Potter
Mr. Afthead’s favorite series.

Finally to the archives, where dusty cassette tapes of the early audio books are stored.  Yes, you read that right, cassette tapes.  I listened to the first five books using the tape deck in my 1999 red Subaru.  It does appear that for book six I moved over to CDs.  Someday I hope that the digital audiobooks will show up somewhere on a device I support.  Jim Dale’s rendition of the series is even better than reading it in my own head.


The movies?  We have most of them too.  I loved the books more, but the movies have strong memories associated with them.  I was struggling with losing pregnancies and I remember sitting in the theater sobbing during the fourth Harry Potter movie because I was never going to have a child who would enjoy these movies with me. Our first date after our daughter was born was to see the first half of “Deathly Hallows.”  My husband and I are patiently, patiently waiting for our her to be ready for Harry Potter.  She shuns them now as “too scary” but the day will come when she sits down on my lap and we go to Hogwarts together, or we road trip and Jim Dale tells her about Quiddich, or she sits next to me and we enjoy watching the “Goblet of Fire.”  I’ll bet you anything that when she does finally read the books herself, she’ll need her own copy, because mommy and daddy will be reading right alongside her.

Final Tally:

  • Sorcerers/Philosophers Stone :: 6 copies
  • Chamber of Secrets ::  15 copies
  • Prisoner of Azkaban :: 4 copies
  • Goblet of Fire :: 4 copies
  • Order of the Phoenix :: 4 copies
  • Half-Blood Price :: 3 copies
  • Deathly Hallows :: 4 copies (if you count each movie half as one)