In made up stories, you get a through line, straight or curved or squiggly. It connects foreshadowing to ending. To paraphrase Anton Chekov efficient storytelling requires that if you put a gun on stage in Act One of a play, it must go off in Act Two. But real life doesn’t deliver on every promise, nor every threat. Not every gun will go off. It’s impossible to know which ones will and which ones won’t. Life can change in an instant. That’s a fact. But life isn’t changing only in those split seconds when it appears to change, when someone is there and then gone. It is changing in every instant. Sometimes we see the change happening, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes everything about a life looks the same from the outside, but on the inside it has all been blown to bits and rearranged. And sometimes life is changing for people while you’re not thinking about them at all, and you only find out afterward.
Mary Laura Philpott author of
Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives
“I love this passage from Bomb Shelter and I love Bomb Shelter itself because it is a meditation on what it means to be human, what it means to love, knowing that we are mortal and fragile, and that those we love are mortal and fragile. And that even though life doesn’t work like stories, it’s still worth loving. It’s still worth giving everything we have to love.”
Margaret Renkl contributing opinion writer
for The New York Times and author of
The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year