Sometimes in the spring the old lake will return. One will open a cellar door to wading boots floating tallowy soles up and planks and buckets bumping at the threshold, the stairway gone from sight after the second step. The earth will brim, the soil will become mud and then silty water, and the grass will stand in chill water to its tips. Our house was at the edge of town on a little hill, so we rarely had more than a black pool in our cellar, with a few skeletal insects skidding around on it. A narrow pond would form in the orchard, water clear as air covering grass and black leaves and fallen branches, all around it black leaves and and drenched grass and fallen branches, and on it, slight as an image in an eye, sky, clouds, trees, our hovering faces and our cold hands. Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping, p. 5
Brrrr! Chill/hill: our cold hands. Grass, black leaves, fallen branches::black leaves, drenched grass, fallen branches [a,b,c::b,a,c]. Black x 3 (excluding the implied insects and boots and branches and orchard against the sky). Jam-packed with imagery: wading boots floating tallowy soles up [sight], planks and buckets bumping at the threshold [hearing], stairway gone from sight after the second step [sight], soil become mud then silty water [feeling, smelling], grass standing in chill water to its tips [sight, feeling], house on a hill [sight], black pool in the cellar with skeletal insects skidding around on it [sight], narrow pond in the orchard [sight, taste of something sweet promised?], and then those images reflected in the narrow pool—"an eye, sky, clouds, trees, our hovering faces and [as if that weren't sufficient] our cold hands." [sight, feeling] Brrr!
And you know what? That's not even an entire paragraph. Folks, I'm telling you: you've got to look far and wide to find writing with that sort of brilliance. Density. Poetry.
Again, I encourage you to read this book. It's not like some books where you read and read and can't put it down. As with a Richard Powers novel, you don't read it fast. You don't gulp it down like the cheap beer of a thriller or a romance. You sip it like a fine brandy or cognac after a grand meal. Mull. Savor. Reflect. Learn. Grow.
"One will open a cellar door..." Just so there's no doubt where this book is going...