Jun. 13th, 2017

The parts about Sully's wretched childhood marred (as it was meant to) my complete enjoyment of the book. The bright spots: hapless Rub, Sully's elder grandson Will, and Miss Beryl.
  • that pain could have a cumulative effect. Your ability to withstand it had much to do with your ability to catch your breath between its assaults... What Sully feared now was that he was facing a new kind of pain, one that wouldn’t know or care when he’d had all he could take. It might never be satisfied.
  • What she looked like was a complete list of a man’s past sins come to life, bent on retribution.
  • Miss Beryl remembered one of her mother’s favorite quips, which she now shared with her companion. “Well,” she told Mrs. Gruber. “Either you told a lie or you ‘et’ something.” {??}
  • The responsibility and burden of affection had always weighed heavily on her ex-husband. Given half a chance, he gravitated naturally to the easy camaraderie of the lunchroom, the barroom, the company of men, of another man’s wife.
  • Only Will, her grandson, seemed aware of her distress, and he watched her so fearfully that she wished there was a way to reassure him that this feeling would pass, that truth was something she’d always been able to swallow and keep down.
  • the old man managed to take in each person efficiently—his unhappy daughter, Vera, and her long-suffering husband, his crippled ex-son-in-law, Sully, the little boy’s father, Peter, and his large, graceless, sad wife, and the boy himself, his great-grandson, little dick in hand, so full of life and energy. Robert Halsey took them all in, felt affection for one and all, but concluded then and there that even if his next breath of pure oxygen proved to be his last, he wouldn’t trade places with any of these people,
  • what to say to a kid with a perpetual frown who always watched the speedometer and reported back to his mother how fast Sully had driven. They usually went somewhere where there’d be a crowd—a movie or an amusement park—so they’d seem less alone.
  • the Joyce woman who had whimpered for half an hour in the bathroom was grieving the loss of a loved one—the self she had been when she was flush with the currency of youth.
  • Sully, even as a sophomore, was everything Clive Jr., an eighth-grader, aspired to be—reckless, imaginative, contemptuous of authority and, above all, indifferent to pain.
  • When he thought it through objectively, Clive Jr. didn’t see what was so wrong about a young boy wanting to keep his own family intact. Yet he and his father made no mention of their visit to Miss Beryl. It remained their unspoken secret, and yet instead of drawing father and son closer together, it had driven a further wedge between them.
  • Sully might even manage to kill everybody else, but it would be his own personal destiny to be thrown clear of one head-on collision after another, always the worse for the experience but never dead of it.
  • Trying to get Sully to see things her way was like trying to put a cat into a bag—there was always a leg left over.
  • Peter did as he was told. As things got crazier, he was actually getting the hang of coexisting with his father. Following orders was pretty much essential, far more important than understanding them. Different rules entirely from those that governed his life as an educator. Out on the blacktop the El Camino did a three-point turn and backed into the drive, right up to the gate.
  • Like all the mistakes a man made in his life, which could be worried and picked at like scabs but were better left alone.
  • “So I wouldn’t be you,” Peter said so quickly that Sully wondered if he’d imagined this conversation in advance and had an answer all prepared. As usual, Sully was surprised at how quickly Peter’s resentment surfaced. It wasn’t that he didn’t have reason, just that they’d be going along fine and then, without immediate cause, there it would be. “Actually, that was Mom’s reason. She was the one that wanted it.”
  • “I’ve never wanted you to be more like me,” he said. “There’ve been times I wished you were less like your mother, but that’s a different issue.” Peter’s smirk was less contemptuous now. “Terrific,” he said. “She’s afraid I’ll end up like you, you’re afraid I’ll end up like her.”
  • “When I could,” Sully admitted. In fact, giving his son a car he didn’t own had buoyed his spirits considerably. For much of the evening he had considered that in his son’s hour of need Sully had nothing to give him, and it was good to realize now that he hadn’t been thinking clearly. They shook hands on it more or less successfully, since irony and resentment were difficult to convey through the medium of palms.
  • Sully bent down to see. DON’T REMOVE THIS DEAR, it said, and down in the corner, POLICE DEPT. The note had been scrawled in pen, and someone had inserted, in pencil, a comma between the words “this” and “dear.” Sully considered the various riddles presented by both the dead animal and the note for about thirty seconds before giving up, glad that there were some riddles in this always strange life that had nothing to do with himself, a conclusion that was probably valid in general, if not in this instance.

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