I guess no post on first liners could ever be complete without Tolstoy's line from Anna Karenina:
"All happy families are alike. All unhappy families are unhappy in their own way".
Although this quotation for years has stood unchallenged as a stand-alone statement about the human condition, I read in Id's blog that author Rachel Kadish challenged it in her book "Tolstoy Lied". I can't wait to read the book for myself....
Another great first line often quoted and more often the subject of a joke is from Moby Dick:
"Call me Ishmael"
I really didn't think much about this particular first line until I saw some graffiti in Toronto the other day which read "Call me, Ishmael" !
From Tahmima Anam's "A Golden Age":
"Dear Husband, I lost our children today".
I will confess when I first saw those lines they were so powerful that I knew then and there I was going to be by the book. Although it was an impulsive buy I will never regret it because the book turned out to be an absolutely golden read and is now nominated for a Guardian First Book Award.
The book I am reading currently not only has a great opening line - "Impulse is intuition on crack"- but a great title as well!
"What The Psychic Told the Pilgrim" is Jane Christmas' true adventure story of traveling on foot to Spain's Camino de Santiago de Compostetla to celebrate a milestone - her 50th birthday . This decision to make the pilgrimage that most people take years pondering over was made on a short plane ride that Christmas took. What made Ms. Christmas want to undertake such a challenge? I will tell you...but first, a few words on the Camino de Santigo de Composteta:
The Way of St. James or St. James' Way, often known by its Spanish name, el Camino de Santiago, is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where legend has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great, are buried.
A midlife crisis, wanting to get away from a troublesome teenager and the chance to roam free are some of the reasons for wanting to do make this pilgrimage is what Jane Christmas told Macleans magazine. Also, she had always found it difficult to express her Christian faith and it seemed to her that this was one way to do it. She was accompanied by 14 other women. Initially Christmas was happy to have them join her because she thought it might be a kind of Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" but turns out the group started splintering into cliques, and there was all this subtle backbiting that morphed into Lord of the Flies on estrogen.
I have to confess to thoroughly enjoying this book! It's a good, funny read with descriptions so lucid and real it almost felt like the author was holding my hand and guiding me through this brutal walk. The 800-kilometer walk with its mountainous, muddy, rocky terrain, its cranky and competitive pilgrims and the crowded and mostly full pilgrim lodges sound quite daunting to me, but its not without its good moments and ofcourse, the wonderful humor of our host together with the history and other excellent background information she provides of the walk, pulls you along quite nicely. "What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim" is however so much more than just the walk...it is a conversation on women's friendships, motherhood, a reflection of one's faith, of pushing oneself to the limit, the celebration of a milestone and a journal of self-discovery.
In closing, I will take a virtual walk with this author anytime, but if I ever sign up for a real pilgrimage, especially something as brutal as this in a fit of midlife madness, please hit me!
About the author:
Jane Christmas worked as a newspaper editor for twenty-five years and has written for the Hamilton Spectator, the Globe and Mail, and the National Post. She is the author of The Pelee Project: One Woman’s Escape from Urban Madness. She has three children and lives in Hamilton, Ontario.