Title: Terms of Endearment.
Author: Larry McMurtry.
Genre: Fiction, family, romance.
Publication Date: 1975.
Summary: A novel of two characters: Aurora Greenway and her daughter Emma. Aurora is the kind of woman who makes the whole world orbit around her, including a string of devoted suitors. Widowed and overprotective of her daughter, Aurora adapts at her own pace until life sends two enormous challenges her way: Emma's hasty marriage and subsequent battle with cancer. A story of a mother and her feisty daughter and their struggle to find the courage and humor to live through life's hazards.
My rating: 7.5/10
♥ The look on her mother's face—an utter conviction of utter ruin—was too real. The look might not last five minutes—seldom did—but there it was, on a face that Emma felt sure must be the most helplessly human face that she or anyone she knew had ever had to confront. The sight of her mother looking blank with distress had always caused whoever was handy to come rushing up at once with whatever love they had available in them. No one had ever been able to stand to see her mother looking that way, Emma least of all, and only love would change it.
♥ Suddenly, to Aurora's terror, life seemed to bolt straight from her grip. Something flung her heart violently, and she felt alone. She no longer felt merciless, she just— She didn't know, something was gone, nothing was certain, she was older, she had not been granted control, and what would happen? She had no way to see how things would end. In her terror she flung out her arms and caught her daughter. For a moment the only thing she knew was the cheek she was kissing, the girl she was hugging to her; and then, abruptly, her heart settled back and she noticed, quite to her surprise, that she had pulled Emma half through the window of the car.
♥ "No doubt I'll manage somehow," she said again, in a tone which was meant to indicate that she considered herself absolved of all responsibility for her own future. She was, for the moment, rather cheerful, but she wanted it clearly understood that if anything bad happened to her in what remained of her life the fault must be laid at doorsteps other than her own.
♥ Emma was staring into the wet night. Her quick face, which was almost always turned toward him—to see what he might be thinking, or might be wanting—was for the moment turned somewhere else. He had been about to compliment her but didn't. Emma could sometimes make him feel reticent, at odd times and for no reason he knew, and it had just happened. A little baffled and very reticent, he fiddled with his fork for a while, and they sat and listened to the dripping trees.
♥ Emma pulled her toes in out of the sun. She had been extremely happy for a few minutes, with just herself and the warm boards and a few vague thoughts of Danny. It was such happiness to be alone on her porch that she had been quietly expecting the whole day to be complete delight. Perhaps warm boards and cool shade were the best parts of life, after all. Flap had only to open the screen door to tip everything out of kilter again. All the life that went on in the house itself came out on the porch, and Emma felt cornered. She also felt angry.
♥ For weapons she had coffee and cigarettes, the want ads and the crossword puzzle, and even her old shabby copy of Wuthering Heights. The book was one of her unfailing comforts in life, but for once it failed her. She couldn't lose herself in it, and all it did was remind her of what she already knew too well: that in her life nothing that total would ever be at stake. No one would ever think she was that crucial—not truly or absolutely, not life or death, commit or die.
...She had stopped feeling angry at Flap what she could not stop feeling was disappointed. Life had far too little of Wuthering Heights. Now carelessly, now meticulously, she peeled an orange, but it lay on the table uneaten until late that afternoon.
♥ "No choice," Aurora muttered, abandoning the field. It was another of her favorite expressions, and also one of her favorite states. As long as she could feel robbed of all choice, then nothing that went wrong could be her fault, and in any case she had never really enjoyed choosing, unless jewels and gowns were involved.
♥ "You know me," Rosie said. "I ain't one to take nothin' lightly."
"Well, it must be an awful way to be," Aurora said, tapping the steering wheel thoughtfully with a fingernail. "The more things one can take lightly, the better chance one has."
♥ She slipped off her shoes and stockings before she got out. The bright green grass of her lawn was nice and wet and she took her time walking across it. Somehow being barefoot always made her feel more the way she liked to feel. It was so much easier to be enthusiastic when her feet were touching something besides shoes. Time and again she had had to fight down an urge to throw all her shoes in the garbage and begin a retreat from life—it was one of her strongest if most unladylike urges. She had never gone and done it, but she was not above throwing away five or six pairs when she thought Rosie wouldn't notice. All her life she had looked for shoes she liked, but the truth was there just weren't any; it seemed to her that the only events that made shoes worth it at all were concerts. At concerts, if the music was truly good, shoes ceased to matter; social engagements were a different matter. No matter what the scale or tone of the engagement, she seldom felt quite right until she was back home and the wood of her floors or the tile of her patio or perhaps the velour of her bedroom rug was under her bare feet again.
♥ Emma had learned something about heat from life in Houston. Heat was an aid to suspension, and there were times when suspension was an aid to life. When she really didn't know what to do with herself, she had learned to do nothing at all.
♥ "What you don't seem to comprehend is that people of any substance are often much better in person than they seem in the abstract, when one is merely left to think about them. Everyone likes to gripe about people who aren't there."
♥ "In any case his tradition has only prepared him for compliant women. I'm deeply fond of him but I doubt that I could remain compliant very long."
"Then don't you think it's wrong of you to lead him on?"
Aurora smiled at her daughter, who was sitting demurely in her nice yellow dress and challenging her motives.
"You're lucky to have caught me when I'm mellow, if you're going to say such things to me," she said. "I'm afraid our points of view are twenty-five years apart. Alberto is not an adolescent with his life ahead of him. He's an aging man who's been seriously ill, and he might drop dead tomorrow. I have told him many times that I couldn't marry him. I am not leading him on, I'm merely doing the best I can by him. It may be that he cherishes impossible hopes—I suppose he does—but at his age impossible hopes are better than no hopes at all."
♥ "You're a ridiculous woman!" the General burst out. "I hope you realize that. Just ridiculous!"
"Well, I sometimes suspect it," Aurora said quietly. "All the same I wish you weren't quite so eager to turn me against myself."
♥ Aurora, unrelenting even for a second, kept looking at him; she was turning the rings on her fingers, waiting for something, looking straight at him. It seemed to Vernon suddenly that everything was different. All his life people had insisted that someday a woman would come along and change him before he knew what was happening to him—and now it had come true. He would not have believed a human being would have had the power to change him so much so quickly, but it was so. Everything changed, not lowly, but at once. His old life had stopped just after he parked, and the ordinary world that he had known up to then had just stopped counting. Everything that stopped had stopped so abruptly that it took his breath. He felt that he would never see or need to see or even want to see another face but the face of the woman who was looking at him. He was so stunned that he even said what he felt.
"Oh, lord, Mrs. Greenway," he said. "I'm in love with you—plumb in love. What am I gonna do?"
♥ "I feel quite chaotic just now."
She did too. She had passed through parts of the day without really feeling them, and now those parts were catching up with her. She had begin to feel them all, and they were contradictory and ambiguous, but with Emma on the phone and Rosie in the kitchen she was at least feeling them within familiar human boundaries. She felt strange, not quite lost.
♥ "I'd feel plumb ridiculous."
"Well, if you've reached the stage where you've got to have a woman, you're going to feel ridiculous the big part of the time anyway," Schweppes said. "I was never mixed up with nobody from further east than Little Rock neither. I never said more than howdy to a smart woman in my life, and I still went around feeling dumb half the time. They're smarter than us—that's what it boils down to.
"Not as ornery, just smarter," he added.
♥ ...it was clear to him that Old Schweppes must be right: he was crazy. Twenty years back, when he was in his thirties, he had thought so himself for a time, bit he kept so busy he forgot about it.
♥ "What you mean is if he were educated I might think about marrying him, which is plainly insulting. I'm not such a snob as all that. If I wanted him I'd educate him myself."
♥ The heart had been there to take and she had taken it, an action as natural to her as taking a bite from a plate. She had never been inclined to pass over accessible hearts, if the person carrying them seemed somewhat palatable.
Self-denial of almost any kind was a mode of behavior she had always rejected—instinctively at the moment when something lay at hand to be grabbed, consciously later on when she had time to think about it. In an imperfect, frequently unsatisfactory life, self-denial sememed the stupidest of procedures. She didn't leave palatable bites on plates, either; and yet, committed as she was, both by instinct and reflection, to having what she could get, she recognized quite clearly that hearts were not much like bites, and the thought of breaking Vernon's, or anyone's, was a very troubling thought. At moments she deplored her greed, but those were rare moments; restraint was not something she expected of herself.
♥ "I've never been able to vouch for tomorrow, not even with Rudyard."
"Does that mean you never know what you might do next?" Rosie said. "I'm the same way. Wonder why we stayed married so long?"
"Oh, that has nothing to do with vouching for tomorrow," Aurora said. "Who likes to break a habit?"
♥ There had never seemed any harm in him, somehow; he had never been known to be unkind to any woman, young or old. All his wives and ladies and their daughters and all his actresses and ballerinas left him after a while, carrying with them many fine presents and Trevor's love and fond regards; and he remained tender and fond toward all of them. He had in some small way enhanced every woman he had met and never hurt one, and yet not a one had ever returned to him, not even momentarily, that she knew of. The very fact of all those daughters, which in another man would have seemed monstrous, seemed only touching and rather sweet in Trevor—a way, almost of giving continuity to the love he bore their mothers.
♥ "Without you I have no hope," Trevor said, a good deal of his soul in his eyes. Aurora looked over, noticed the soul, and gave him a bite of her lobster, since he had so far ignored his own.
♥ "Nothing will make me stop worrying."
Aurora shrugged. The lobster was wonderful. "Worry, then," she said.
♥ "That's the point, Aurora. Every romance I've had for thirty years has been merry. Maybe that's why I only want you. You're the only one who makes me unhappy."
"Oh, Trevor, don't say that, dear," Aurora said. "You know I can't stand to feel I've been cruel to you. Here you've just provided me with such a nice meal."
"I don't blame you," Trevor said. "It's just that I like being unhappy about you better than I like being happy about most of the women I know."
♥ "Dawn always found us on our feet," Trevor said again. He had grown fond of the line.
"Well, I must say, Trevor, you're the only man I know who realizes dancing ought to be a regular part of life," Aurora said, rather happily.
♥ The door to the bedroom was closed. At the sight of it they both lost their nerve and stood stupidly in front of it for two minutes, until the spectacle of their own cowardice became intolerable.
♥ "He drank too much."
"I noticed," Aurora said. "It's one of the things I like about Thomas. He's capable of getting drunk. It's a human trait, at least."
♥ "Only a saint could live with me, and I can't live with a saint."
♥ "I don't want you to be scared!" she yelled. "I'm just a human being! I just wanted you to sit and drink some tea... with me... and be my companion for a few minutes. I'm not going to pour the tea on you unless you drive me completely out of my wits with your reticence, or your stupid inarticulateness. I'm not scary! Don't tell me I'm scary! There's nothing frightening about me. You're just all cowards!"
♥ "There are times when I despise the way you speak," the General said. "You choose your words too well. I could never trust you."
♥ Unfortunately, Rosie was more wrought up than either of them knew. Without suspecting she was near it, Rosie suddenly reached her breaking point.
♥ "I've noticed that mediocre people always pride themselves on their discrimination. It's a vastly overrated ability, I can assure you."
♥ "You'll never know much about me, I'm afraid. Half the time I'm a mystery to myself, and I've always been a mystery to the men who think they know me. Happily, I enjoy surprises. I'm always happiest when I manage to surprise myself."
♥ "Since you are my daughter, I'll tell you something," Aurora said. "Understanding is overrated and mystery is underrated. Keep that in mind and you'll have a livelier life."
♥ "I've gone to quite unusual lengths to be accommodating to you, and we still seem to fight all the time. What's life going to be like if I suddenly decide to be troublesome?"
"You can't be any goddamn worse than you are," then General said.
"Ha, ha, little you know," she said. "I've made almost no demands on you. Suppose I decided to make a few."
"Sensible demands. I might demand that you get rid of that broken-down car, or those two overweening dogs."
"Overweening," Aurora said, amused by the look of astonishment that the General wore.
"I might even demand that you give up golf, as a special test of your seriousness," she said.
"And I might demand that you marry me," the General said. "Two can play at that game."
"Only one can play at it successfully," Aurora said.
♥ "Oh, be still," Aurora said. "You can't cure all the ills of humankind with your jobs, you know. You'd do better to cure a few of your own and let the rest of us flounder."
♥ Richard was the hardest to deal with—much the hardest. Emma didn't know then whether she was really dying or not, but some cold instinct told her that Richard must not be allowed to attach himself any tighter. She didn't want Richard's life to be haunted by her, whether he lost her to death or life.
♥ Somehow that look had won her, though she couldn't remember, looking at him, what the terms of endearment had been, or how they had been lost for so long.
♥ If she had had a chance she might have gone home and dug in, but she knew she had no chance—knew it from what she felt, not from what she had been told. Once she accepted that, then she accepted the hospital. For those who could be cured, it was a hospital, but for her it was a depot, a kind of bus station; she was there to be transported out of life, and because it was ugly and bare and smelled bad and was run impersonally by hired functionaries, that which was never easy—a departure—could at least be handled efficiently.
♥ "She often made me feel I was faintly ridiculous," Aurora said. "Somehow she just had that effect. Perhaps that was why I remained so unremittingly critical of her. Actually, I suppose I am."
"Am faintly ridiculous," Aurora said, remembering her daughter. "Perhaps I felt she would have been a little happier if she had been... faintly ridiculous... too."