“One had followed the rules, one had not. But the problem with rules, he reflected, was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time there were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure which side of the line you stood on.”

page 269

I love the themes of this novel as well as the literary style. Paradoxes are explored while complexities are carved from each character as the book chisels away appearances and instead reveals flaws and beauties and wishes. The omniscient narrator is honest and unbiased, exploring all sides of complex situations, presenting pasts and futures – unknown to the characters – to the reader, begging the reader not to judge quickly; not to condemn. To wait and watch what will grow from the ashes.

There is a chapter towards the end that presents one side of a court case and then the other in a fascinating, complex array of paragraphs. The chapter exposes deeper and deeper paradoxes until the reader’s opinions about what is right and what is wrong are shredded; all that is left is a broken heart, a burned field of ashes. This chapter is brilliant but only because of the more subtly proposed paradoxes throughout the novel.

Thank you, Celeste, for so many stories. Stories that are hidden within appearances, perfection, desperation, and situation. For presenting impossible questions and then leaving them unanswered. Thank you for not creating a villain or a hero and for using art as the only way to capture a moment. For making me think about mothers, mothering, and a mother’s love. Thank you for writing a beautiful novel.