Friends: I’m trying to settle on a short passage to put at the front of the book, so that when someone picks it up and opens the cover, they can read a couple of paragraphs to get a feel for the story. It’s a tone-setter, definitely, but also a bit of a selling tool.
I’ve narrowed it to three choices, but having difficulty deciding. I guess I love them all equally. This, then, is where you can help: any thoughts are appreciated, especially if you’re one of those few people who’ve read the book already. Remember, tone and interest. Tone. Interest.
Could be this, from early on in the story. Boone (the protagonist) is standing atop a hill, looking down at the town below:
“Strange. The images came at Boone in a rush, one clear piece after another, as if he were looking through a telescope and jerking from side to side at the same time. A Baptist church here. A Methodist church there. A BP station on one corner. A Chevron on the other. A McDonald’s to the east, a Taco Bell to the west. A logging truck. A school bus. Children. Old people. A pharmacy. A meth lab. A dealer. An addict. A blonde. A cheerleader. A cross. A coffin.
Boone felt sick.
The pictures in his mind shifted. He imagined everything in Sewardville sliding into the very bottom of the valley. The churches and the gas stations and the fast food restaurants piled on top of one another – sinking, sinking, sunk – as the earth crumbled beneath them. Everything went down, down, down to the bottom of the pit. The rusty machinery slid a little further down the valley, creeping closer towards the mobile homes. The mobile homes sank down the hillsides, headed towards town. The town sank into a black pit, headed towards oblivion, and Boone could do nothing but stand there and watch them go.”
Or, it could be this one, from a conversation late in the book between Boone and his elderly mother. It would need to be trimmed, of course, but you get the idea. *SPOILER ALERT* A primary point is included here. Maybe I’ll cut that part out.
“I want you to look around here,” she said, waving her arm in a short arc above her head. “Look around this house, this house where you grew up. Every night I ask myself, how could a man like you come out of a home like this? I don’t understand it.”
“What did I do wrong?” she continued in the same steady timbre. “Tell me what I did, son. What was it that made you turn out the way you did, with all your wickedness? It just hurts my heart, Boone. I ain’t never told you but I’m tellin’ you now. It hurts my heart. I can’t hardly sleep some nights, I just lay there in my bed prayin’, wonderin’ what kind of trouble you got yourself into now. Are you in jail? Are you hurt? Are you dyin’? Are you dead? I never know. Lord, I just never do know.
“All that evil, all that devil’s work, all those demons that you’ve walked with for these years. All the people you’ve hurt, all the people dead because of you. What number of men have you killed? Don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear. My soul can’t take knowing. Maybe you even killed your own brother. Don’t think I haven’t thought about that on some of these nights, don’t think for one second that I ain’t wondered if you was capable of that kind of wickedness.”
She paused in her speech, breathing hard. Her cold stare tore through Boone’s guts. He knew that he deserved this.
She said, “My Bible tells me that the Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.’ And I know what He was sayin’. Jimmy’s blood cries out to me, too. I hear it all the time.
“He was filled with wickedness, just like you’re filled with wickedness. I realized a long time ago that you chose a life of devils and serpents, son. And I wonder, does your poor brother’s blood ever cry out to you, the way it cries out to me? Does it? Does it? Or do you stay in that house so high up on the hill that you can’t hear anything but them devils and serpents, ‘cause the devils and the serpents are a part of you that can’t be cut loose, just like you’re a part of them that don’t want to be cut loose? It’s all just wickedness. Pure wickedness. Right there. In your heart. In your dark heart, the heart of the devil.”
Then there’s this excerpt. One of the through-lines of the book are dreams and memory, and how the melding of the two reveals information and history, particularly, information that we prefer to ignore about ourselves. (This part is spoiler-y, too, but I tend to think you have to get a little spoiler-y to pique the audience’s interest.)
“He can’t kill her or anyone else. He is not a killer. Is he a killer? He is not a killer.
Please don’t hurt me. Just let me go. I can run away, I won’t tell anyone, I have money.
But they can’t let her run away.
Why is Walt doing this to me?
Because he wants to.
Why are you doing this?
Because he wants me to.
She lays on the ground, begging him for mercy. Begging him to let her go. He can’t do that. He wishes he could but he can’t. He raises the pistol, aims at her head.
He holds the gun on her. He wants to let her go. He can’t let her go. How did he get into this? He is not a killer.
He steadies his aim. He has to do this. Walt wants him to do it. Walt made him some promises, if he does this thing, if he does this one thing he can have Karen and be part of the family.
He closes his eyes because he can’t watch. He will do it, yes, but he can’t watch. She has such pretty silver hair. Her silver hair, tied up in a pony tail. He can’t watch. He closes his eyes and keeps them shut tight. He readies himself for the deed, the terrible deed.
He is not a killer.
He will kill her.”
So, firends – what do you like best? Comments below, or e-mail/Facebook/Twitter me.