There were days - she could remember this - when Henry would hold her hand as they walked home, middle-aged people, in their prime. Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it. But she had that memory now, of something healthy and pure.
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.
The fact of the matter is I always have a really high sense of responsibility to the reader, whether it's a few readers that I get or a lot of readers, which I was lucky enough to get with 'Olive.' I feel responsible to them, to deliver something as truthful and straight as I can.
I would also hope that readers receive a larger understanding, or a different understanding, of what it means to be human, than they might have had before. We suffer from being quick to judge, quick to make excuses for ourselves and others, and I would like the reader to feel that we are all, more or less, in a similar state as we love and disappoint one another, and that we try, most of us, as best we can, and that to fail and succeed is what we do.
Olive's private view is that life depends on what she thinks of as "big bursts" and "little bursts." Big bursts are things like marriage or children, intimacies that keep you afloat, but these big bursts hold dangerous, unseen currents. Which is why you need the little bursts as well: a friendly clerk at Bradlee's, let's say, or the waitress at Dunkin' Donuts who knows how you like your coffee. Tricky business, really.
Back and forth she went each morning by the river, spring arriving once again; foolish, foolish spring, breaking open its tiny buds, and what she couldn’t stand was how—for many years, really—she had been made happy by such a thing. She had not thought she would ever become immune to the beauty of the physical world, but there you were. The river sparkled with the sun that rose, enough that she needed her sunglasses.
And yet, standing behind her son, waiting for the traffic light change, she remembered how in the midst of it all there had been a time when she'd felt a loneliness so deep that once, not so many years ago, having a cavity filled, the dentist's gentle turning of her chin with his soft fingers had felt to her like a tender kindness of almost excruciating depth, and she had swallowed with a groan of longing, tears springing to her eyes.
By the time they were pulling into the parking lot of the A&P, the mood was fading, the moment gone. Amy could feel it go. Perhaps it was nothing more than the two doughnuts expanding in her stomach full of milk, but Amy felt a heaviness begin, a familiar turning of some inward tide. As they drove over the bridge the sun seemed to move from a cheerful daytime yellow to an early-evening gold; painful how the gold light hit the riverbanks, rich and sorrowful, drawing from Amy some longing, a craving for joy.
You couldn't make yourself stop feeling a certain way, no matter what the other person did. You had to just wait. Eventually the feeling went away because others came along. Or sometimes it didn't go away but got squeezed into something tiny, and hung like a piece of tinsel in the back of your mind.
The evenings grew longer; kitchen windows stayed open after dinner and peepers could be heard in the marsh. Isabelle, stepping out to sweep her porch steps, felt absolutely certain that some wonderful change was arriving in her life. The strength of this belief was puzzling; what she was feeling, she decided, was really the presence of God.