It’s been a while since I’ve posted a Passage of the Week, but I’ve decided to bring this feature of my blog back. It’s a great way to share what I’m reading, and to celebrate excellent books and the wonderful writing in them. It’s also a way for me to do something I love nearly as much as reading and writing, and that’s talking about writing — delving into the nitty-gritty, picking apart sentences, discussing craft.
This week’s passage comes from Zinnia and the Bees, Danielle Davis’s incredibly original and dazzlingly written debut. Throughout the book’s first eighty pages, Danielle carefully builds a lexicon of Zinnia’s emotional world — words and phrases that have specific, special meaning to Zinnia and, increasingly, to the reader, too. Soon enough, all Danielle has to do is drop one of these words or phrases and, just like that, she conjures up a flurry of Zinnia’s thoughts and feelings.
In the passage below, we find Zinnia trying to escape all those thoughts and feelings. She does so by knitting. But her wood needles and wool yarn can only keep her problems at bay for so long. Here we see them creeping in on her, invading what was supposed to be her most private, personal space. Thanks in large part to the work Danielle did earlier in the book, she can craft a brief but highly dynamic, emotional roller coaster of a scene — a hundred some-odd words that pack the punch of an entire novel.
Danielle’s book — and this selection from it in particular — offers the writer several valuable lessons, including one that poets know well but novelists often forget: every word matters. And if you write (and revise!) with that in mind, every one of your carefully chosen words will reach the reader all the better.
. . .
ZINNIA AND THE BEES, by Danielle Davis (pp. 85-86)
Wood needles. Wool yarn. The hypnotizing push and pull, tuck and wrap. All the stuff that feels massive gets smaller. Less overwhelming. It fades into faraway stars. Dots that don’t concern me.
Just the movement of my fingers, the click of needles, the tug of string.
It’s not far from the best ever.
Until the front door opens — whoosh.
I put down my never-ending scarf. Everything comes at me again. Massive and close and gaining ground.
Dr. Flossdrop. The calunk of her clogs.
I’ve tried leaving the windows open all week. I’ve tried shaking my head furiously. I’ve tried taking hour-long showers, despite what Dr. Flossdrop thinks of wasting that much water. I’ve tried asking them politely. I’ve tried yelling, too.
But the bees aren’t listening. And they’re not leaving.
Unlike Adam, who left and might never be coming back. I haven’t heard from him, and I haven’t seen him, even though I’m always looking.
Everything feels impossible again. Big and fast and suffocating.
. . .