Olive Kitteridge

He would not let her go. Even though, staring into her open eyes in the swirling salt-filled water, with sun flashing though each wave, he thought he would like this moment to be forever: the dark-haired woman on shore calling for their safety, the girl who had once jumped rope like a queen, now holding him with a fierceness that matched the power of the ocean—oh, insane, ludicrous, unknowable world! Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on.

—Elizabeth Strout

Middlesex

Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well as for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.”

—Jeffrey Eugenides

The Light Between Oceans

There are still more days to travel in this life. And he knows that the man who makes the journey has been shaped by every day and every person along the way. Scars are just another kind of memory.

—M.L. Stedman