Bastard Out of Carolina

Anney makes the best gravy in the county, the sweetest biscuits, and puts just enough vinegar in those greens. Glenn nodded, though the truth was he’d never had much of a taste for greens, and his well-educated mama had always told him that gravy was bad for the heart. So he was not ready for the moment when Mama pushed her short blond hair back and set that big plate of hot food down in front of his open hands. Glenn took a bite of gristly meat and gravy, and it melted between his teeth. The greens were salt sweet and fat rich. His tongue sang to his throat; his neck went loose, and his hair fell across his face. It was like sex, that food, too good to waste on the middle of the day and a roomful of men too tired to taste. He chewed, swallowed began to come alive himself. He began to feel for the first time like one of the boys, a grown man accepted by the notorious and dangerous Earle Boatwright, staring across the counter at one of the prettiest woman he’d ever seen. His face went hot, and he took a big drink of ice tea to cool himself.

Don't go taking that gospel stuff seriously. It's nice to clean you out now and then, but it ain't for real. It's like bad whiskey. Run through you fast and leave you with pain.

Everything that comes to us is a blessing or a test. That’s all you need to know in this life…just the certainty that God’s got His eye on you, that He knows what you are made of, what you need to grow on. Why,questioning’s a sin, it’s pointless. He will show you your path in His own good time. And long as I remember that, I’m fine.

For that is of course what it means to read a novel and live in it for a while. You are viscerally inside someone else’s reality. You feel and understand things you have not known before, and that is both scary and exhilarating. The world becomes more clear, reality more vivid, and your own experience larger.

he had never imagined she would leave him for messing around with girls he would never have married and didn’t love.

He loves her like a gambler loves a fast racehorse or a desperate man loves whiskey. That kind of love eats a man up.

He never said "Don't tell your mama." He never had to say it. I did not know how to tell anyone what I felt, what scared me and shamed me... (109)

I fell into shame like a suicide throws herself into a river. (253)

I made my life, the same way it looks like you're gonna make yours—out of pride and stubbornness and too much anger. You better think hard, Ruth Anne, about what you want and who you're mad at. You better think hard.

It ain't that you get religion. Religion gets you and then milks you dry. Won't let you drink a little whiskey. Won't let you make no fat-assed girls grin and giggle. Won't let you do a damn thing except work for what you'll get in the hearafter. I live in the here and now.

I wanted her to to go on talking and understand without me saying anything. I wanted her to love me enough to leave him, to pack us up and take us away from him, to kill him if need be. (107)

I was no Cherokee. I was no warrior. I was nobody special. I was just a girl, scared and angry. When I saw myself in Daddy Glen's eyes, I wanted to die. No, I wanted to be already dead, cold and gone. Everything felt hopeless. He looked at me and I was ashamed of myself. It was like sliding down an endless hole, seeing myself at the bottom, dirty, ragged, poor, stupid.

I would imagine being tied up and put in a haystack while someone put the dry, stale straw ablaze. I would picture it perfectly while rocking on my hand. The daydream was about struggling to get free while the fire burned hotter and closer. I am not sure if I came when the fire reached me or after I had imagined escaping it. But I came. I orgasmed on my hand to the dream of fire.

Mama learned to laugh with them, before they could laugh at her, and to do it so well no one could be sure what she really thought or felt.

Moving had no season, was all seasons, crossed time like a train with no schedule. We moved so often our mail never caught up with us, moved sometimes before we'd even gotten properly unpacked or I'd learned the names of all the teachers at my new school. Moving gave me a sense of time passing and everything sliding, as if nothing could be held on to anyway. It made me feel ghostly, unreal and unimportant, like a box that goes missing and then turns up but then you realize you never needed anything in it anyway.

My heart broke all over again. I wanted my life back, my mama, but I knew I would never have that. The child I had been was gone with the child she had been. We were new people, and we didn't know each other anymore. I shook my head desperately.

No one knew she cried in the night for Lyle and her lost happiness, that under that biscuit crust exterior she was all butter grief and hunger.

Once I was born, her hopes had turned and I had climbed up her life like a flower reaching for the sun

People don't do right because of the fear of God or love of him. You do the right thing because the world doesn't make sense if you don't." (145)

People pay for that they do, and still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become. And the pay for it simply: by the lives they lead. - James Baldwin

That was what gospel was meant to do - make you hate and love yourself at the same time, make you ashamed and glorified.

The worst thing in the world was the way I felt when I wanted us to be like the families in the books in the library, when I just wanted Daddy Glen to love me like the father in Robinson Crusoe. (209)

They looked young, even Nevil, who’d had his teeth knocked out, while the aunts—Ruth, Raylene, Alma, and even Mama—seemed old, worn-down, and slow, born to mother, nurse, and clean up after the men.

Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.