from my bookshelf: euphoria by lily king

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euphoria is inspired by the life of american cultural anthropologist, margaret mead. the story is about three anthropologists in the 1930s: one couple (nell and fen) and a single man, bankson. when the characters’ stories collide, a love triangle quickly ensues and bleeds into their work. the observations that the main characters have of the civilizations that they study prompted me to reflect on themes pertinent to today’s society, like gender, poverty, race, and relationships.

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“Without her glasses, my face would have been little more than a pinkish smudge among many, but she seemed to know it was me as soon as I lifted my head.”

“I was going to be alive for Christmas after all, so I packed a bag and went to spend it with the drunks at the Government Station in Angoram.”

“If they had any last doubts I didn’t hear them over the wail of the engine, which slid us quickly across the dark crimped water toward Nengai.”

“Even still, it took a long time to feel much of anything again.”

“I’d been gone three years. I thought that might be enough travel for a while, but the combination of the winter gloom, my mother’s restless bullying, and the stale cerebral self-conscious wit that bubbled like a frothy mold in every corner of Cambridge drove me to return to the Kiona as fast as I could manage.”

“I asked her if she believed you could ever truly understand another culture. I told her the longer I stayed, the more asinine the attempt seemed, and that what I’d become more interested in is how we believed we could be objective in any way at all, we who each came in with our own personal definitions of kindness, strength, masculinity, femininity, God, civilization, right and wrong.”

“I felt I loved them, loved them both, in the manner of a child. I yearned for them, far more than they could ever yearn for me.”

“Through the windscreen I had a last look at the sea, which was rumpled and agitated, a thick muscle that would hold on tight to everything it swallowed.”