" 'She has gone back to Brooklyn,' her mother would say. And, as the train rolled past Macmine Bridge on its way towards Wexford, Eilis imagined the years ahead, when these words would come to mean less and less to the man who heard them and would come to mean more and more to herself. She almost smiled at the thought of it, then closed her eyes and tried to imagine nothing more."
"What ever happens tomorrow, we'll have today. I'll always remember."
" 'What are you going to do with your life?' In one way or another it seemed that people had been asking her this forever; teachers, her parents, friends at three in the morning, but the question had never seemed this pressing and still she was no nearer the answer... 'Live each day as if it's your last,' that was the concentional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to be good and courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved if you ever get the chance."
"At the same time I ask myself, as I had already begun to ask myself back then: What should our second generation have done...We should not believe we can comprehend the incomprehensible, we may not inquire because to inquire is to make the horrors an object of discussion, even if the horrors themselves are not questioned, instead of accepting them as something in the face of which we can only fall silent in revulsion, shame, and guilt."
"I looked at Hanna's handwriting and saw how much energy and struggle the writing had cost her. I was proud of her. At the same time, I was sorry for her, sorry for her delayed and failed life, sorry for the delays and failures of life in general."
"In the first few years after Hanna's death. I was tormented by the old questions of whether I had denied and betrayed her, whether I was guilty for having loved her. Sometimes I asked myself if I was responsible for her death. And sometimes I was in a rage at her and at what she had done to me. Until finally the rage faded and the questions ceased to matter. Whatever I had done or not done, whatever she had done or not to me-it was the path my life had taken."
"I trust you have seen the ocean. If you have, then you have witnessed the divine. How barren the ground is in comparison! If I could count the hours I have spent staring out at it! And yet those hours ever feel lost. I cannot imagine how else I could refill them were I given a second chance."
"I've had many enemies over the years. If there's one thing I've learned, it's never engage in a fight you're sure to lose. On the other hand, never let anyone who has insulted you get away with it. Bide your time and strike back when you're in a position of strength-even if you no longer need to strike back."
"With her bold act, I realized the true purpose of our secret writing...It gave us a voice. Our nushu was a means for our bound feet to carry us to each other, for our thoughts to fly across the fields as Snow Flower had written."
"That was the extraordinary thing about what the war achieved: it transformed lives, made heroes ou of the mildest of people, out of the most timid, showed the bravery that must always have been there but merely lacked the occasion to manifest itself."
"All my parents do is drink. They have me. Do you know what it's like waking up every morning knowing you're not good enough? There are only two things wrong with me-everything I do and everything I say. They'll never be happy until I'm dead."
"People always say that, when you love someone, nothing in the world matters. But that's not true, is it? You know, and I know, that when you love someone, everything in the world matters a little bit more."
Miriam wished for so much in those final moments. Yet as she closed her eyes, it was no regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last. No. It was not so bad, Miriam thought, that she should die this way. Not so bad. This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate belongings.
"How Iris and Frankie come to betray everything they stand for-that mail must be delivered, that news must be told-is that war story I hoped to tell. It is the story that lies around the edges of the photographs, or at the newspaper account. It's about the lies we tell others to protect them, and about the lies we tell ourselves in order not to acknowledge what we can't bear: that we are alive of instance, and eating lunch, while bombs are falling, and refuges are cramped into camps, and the news comes toward us every hour of the day. And what, in the end, do we do?"