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When do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it?

“For need can blossom into all the compensation it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing-the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.”
― Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

In the madness of my life in the past few days, in between travel, work commitments and ill health, I read Housekeeping— gut-wrenching in parts, at others, spectacular. Moving and truthful, at all times.

The above excerpt is just one of the gems strewn throughout. It is a poetic book to be meandered through, savored. It’s tiny but dense– each paragraph takes some reading, and reading again, for meaning and beauty to sink in.

In 2003, the Guardian Unlimited named Housekeeping one of the 100 greatest novels of all time,[1] describing the book thus: “Haunting, poetic story, drowned in water and light, about three generations of women.” Time magazine also included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.[2]


 If you haven’t read it yet, check it out.

What books have you been reading lately? Has a book moved you, made you want to read it again, and again?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • mita parvin says:

    I really liked your post about When do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it?

  • nrpin says:

    interesting cover, looks wonderful…

  • Susan Scott says:

    Beautiful writing … and the cover is great. I looked it up on Amazon etc and the reviews are all positive and recommend her highly. Thanks Damyanti.

  • Mina Burrows says:

    Housekeeping sounds really good. Thanks for sharing. I'm kind of in a Highlander mood lately. I'm reading all sorts of tales in historical genre.

  • I've not heard of this before, but it sounds amazing, and the cover is very haunting. The Five People You Meet in Heaven is the book I can't help but return to, and the message has stuck with me.

  • I've never heard of this one…it sounds wonderful…
    Last year, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak really did it for me…

    • D Biswas says:

      Michelle, that's a great book! I read it some time ago, and didn't put it down once– that wasn't so great fro my household, tho.

  • This sounds like a wonderful read. I love the mini excerpt.

  • Jo says:

    Not heard of it before, but these days I really don't want to do too much thinking and introspection when I read these days.

    • D Biswas says:

      I passed through a phase like that, Jo, and all I read was romance and fantasy. We all need our down times.

  • Fantastic quote. I hadn't heard of this one either. I currently have Jay Noel's newest book on my Kindle.

  • I haven't heard of this one, but it is definitely one I plan to read. Thanks.

  • Birgit says:

    Thank you for recommending that book. I have read that paragraph 3 times and still need to read it again to understand all the hidden depths. I am reading the 6th book of the Harry Potter series. I just started and I take forever to read a book but I love getting lost into that type of world. I reread many of my film books and art books. I also have read "Call of the Wild" many times

    • D Biswas says:

      I wish I could re-read a lot of books. I keep moving on though– so many books to read, so little time. Any average book takes at least 6 hours, which means to read 2-4 book a week, I need to set aside 20-30 hours. Re-reading rarely happens for me.

  • I haven't read the book but i see I must.

  • Ravish Mani says:

    That for recommending such a book, Damyanti 🙂

  • Pat Hatt says:

    Great cover, admittedly first I've ever heard of it.

    • D Biswas says:

      It is. And took her 23 years to write her next book. I think she'd one of the foremost writers of her time.

  • cleemckenzie says:

    I like books that take me into deeper thoughts about life, but right now I'm into escapist stories, so I'm reading about dragons and quirky people. I think this mood has to do with the world situation. I can only handle so much horrible news before I seek out a way to give my brain a break. I'll make note of Housekeeping, though. Maybe I'll be in a better mood soon. 🙂

    • D Biswas says:

      I alternate books that take me deeper with books that take me away– I'm reading a dragon book now, and will then dive into Doris Lessing. Sometimes (most times) I read two books together– a heavier one for when I need work/writing breaks during the day, and the lighter one for bedtime.

  • Really like the cover – fits the mood of the book.

    • D Biswas says:

      It does, right? I confess I picked it up because of the cover– because Robinson was familiar to me, and I wanted to read Gilead. It is the next one I want to read.

  • A very powerful book Damyanti, I'll have to look for it.

  • Liz Blocker says:

    That one's on my list – thank you for the rec!! I'm reading "The Art of Racing in the Rain" right now, and loving it. I'm not too far along, but the voice is so engaging that I don't want to put it down.

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