I’m a big fan of a strong first sentence. Most people (or at least most English majors) can quote the opening of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” From college, I still recall Dr. Gilman’s comparison of one of Henry James’ ponderous opening sentences with that of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, which reads simply: “Selden paused in surprise.” In this century, we have the incomparable Ann Patchett, whose Commonwealth begins: “The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin.” Draws you right in, doesn’t it?
In my books, I try to start each chapter with something short and punchy. (With a word-count target of 600, I don’t have time to ease into the topic!) So, with one week to go until Finding God Abiding comes into the world, I thought we’d have a little fun. Here are the twenty-eight opening lines. Which is your favorite? What piques your interest? If you were to read a chapter on the basis of the first sentence alone, which would it be?
I’d love to hear your responses! Leave a reply below. (And, you know, get yourself a copy so you can see how it ends.)
May Love Abide,
- Reading was not Christopher’s thing.
- I’ve been a dogged journal-keeper for most of my adult life.
- “How can I feel so miserably poor and embarrassingly rich at the same time?”
- “There’s no reason for them to blow that siren anymore,” my neighbor insisted.
- I recall almost nothing about the conference.
- “It’s Teeny-Weeny String Beanie!”
- The summer I turned five, I went on my first extended-family vacation to Wildwood.
- “Oh, rats! I think I’m supposed to be a nun.”
- Despite wondering about a religious vocation at the end of eighth grade, nothing about my teenage years suggested a career in ministry.
- A graduate student with a wedding ring was hit by a car on the sidewalk, rushed to the emergency room, and whisked into surgery.
- The tantalizing aroma arrested our steps in front of a Greek restaurant on South Street.
- When I finally landed the job of my dreams in campus ministry, my joy was quickly tempered.
- When I was thirty, after several years of increasing strife between us, my husband took a job on the other side of the globe.
- The biggest problem with having unauthorized cats is that you can’t call the landlord.
- The dress caught my eye as it waved in the breeze of a summer garage sale.
- It was peach season at the Jersey shore.
- I had never cut class before.
- Liz had no idea how she was going to pay for college.
- I was in the car with my brother Stephen’s new boyfriend, John.
- The dog I love most in the world just turned seven.
- When I was little, my grandmother taught me how to eat a strawberry.
- Hannah could not stop crying.
- Mary Ellen had raised six children on her own.
- The present that had thrilled my little brother the day before was making him miserable already.
- After nearly ten years in my first campus ministry position, I reached a heart-wrenching insight during my summer retreat.
- I stood at the water’s edge with my back to the beach, tears streaming down my face.
- I flipped on the bathroom light in dismay.
- The text from our cousin caught my brother and me completely by surprise.