Hattie clambered from the train, her skirt still hemmed with Georgia mud, the dream of Philadelphia round as a marble in her mouth and the fear of it a needle in her chest.

Oprah's note:
GORGEOUS! Gorgeous description.

The doomed roof arched. Pigeons cooed in the rafters. Hattie was only fourteen then, slim as a finger.

Oprah's note:
Again, Ayana's use of description just takes my breath away.

She smelled the absence of trees before she saw it.

Oprah's note:
Very much how I felt when I moved "up north" and very much how I feel when I go into a big metropolis: New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago. I miss trees. I love this passage so much I starred it three times.

It's the simplicity of her descriptions—so ordinary in some ways, but so lifted above ordinary. Great writers do that.

She called them precious, she called them light and promise and cloud. The neighbor woman prayed in a steady murmur. She kept her hand on Hattie's knee. The woman wouldn't let go, even when Hattie tried to shake her off. It wasn't much, but she could make it so the girl didn't live this alone.

Oprah's note:
When I read those words I tear up at Hattie's sense of helplessness, yet also at the generosity of the neighbor.

She felt their deaths like a ripping in her body.

Oprah's note:
Which is also how a woman gives birth, with a ripping in her body.

Next: Oprah's favorite quotes from "Floyd"


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