THE BLOG
02/08/2013 06:25 pm ET Updated Apr 10, 2013

Karen E. Bender: "You Will Outlast the Earth"

In this blog, I highlight passages that I've found in my travels through books. I hope readers will post quotes of their own, or comment on those they see here. I'm curious, too, about your reactions to the books you read. What kinds of words and sentences strike you most deeply? What do you look for when you read? What books are precious to you? Which do you always recommend?

"'When will I die?'

His beautiful, worrried face gazed at her. She looked away; she did not want to answer this, at this age -- five! Already he wanted to kill his innocence. She pressed the two of her children to her body. Never. She wanted to say never. You will live and live, you will outlast the earth. This moment will not vanish. But each moment melted the instant it happened; they would step out of her arms in a matter of months, they would stumble across the junior high school cafeteria into high school and college dorm rooms and then into middle age and their gradual descent. What would their end be? They stared at her, alarmed. She was going to break them the news of their deaths. Here it was, at five, already -- by giving them to the world, she had sentenced herself to this. She wanted to lie, but they would see through it. "Honey. I don't know. Don't worry. A long time." -- Karen E. Bender's A Town of Empty Rooms

Years ago, not long after our first child was born, my husband looked at me one evening, his face full of shock and dismay, and said, "Parenthood is nothing but love and worry." This passage from Bender's wise and lovely novel reminded me of that overriding fact of parenthood, that these children of ours, these treasures that we brought into the world, will not live forever. In this scene, the mother, Serena, has to face her son, Zeb, as he confronts his own mortality. Serena's thoughts, odd and unexpected but also completely rational, perfectly capture the way in which intense love slams against unavoidable heartbreak.

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