The Maid’s Room by Fiona Mitchell

35527110.jpg~This where she sleeps. A cupboard. A bedroom. A windowless box.~

~Ma’am Amber penned a red bubbled around [her clinic visit] with a huge exclamation mark as if it was something to look forward to. But Dolly will have to take a test there like she always does every six months. And when the employment agency finds out she’s pregnant they’ll deport her, just like all the others.~

~There are more than 200,000 foreign domestic workers in Singapore. The majority of them are from the Philippines and Indonesia.~

~And when Ma’am tells you it’s a tin of chicken luncheon meat for your dinner again tonight, all while little Dixie [the dog] is sat in her lap, ears back, eyes closed, Ma’am’s nail-varnished hand endlessly stroking his fur, you’ll start to wish you had four legs too, and enjoyed sniffing other dogs’ undercarriages.~

~I read an article in a magazine about a charity called Sanctuary House whose volunteers fostered babies. I rang the charity and volunteered.

A couple of weeks later I was given a six-week-old baby boy to look after for just one week. Surprisingly, no one from the charity came to have a look around our apartment and we weren’t interviewed.~ from the author’s note


Shadow Man by Margaret Kirk

35478806.jpg~Sweating gently in his dark suit, Mahler tries to ignore the twist of pain circling the base of his neck. And wonders why Dante had imagined there were only nine circles of Hell.~

~She’s come home to be homesick. In which alternative universe does that make any kind of sense?~

~Unbelievable. Of all the possible venues in the city, they’ve chosen the actual crime scene for their maudlin grief-fest. How twisted would you have to be to dream that one up?~

~No colour anywhere, just endless shades of black and white – they might be arty, but they’re the most depressing set of photos he’s ever seen. And that includes the ones from his first wedding.~

~Maybe there are no monsters, he thinks, only people like him, people who’d been forced to act to save their own lives.~

~You do know there are alternatives to builders’ magnolia, right?~

Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill

36096848.jpg˜Though both in our late-thirties, my late husband and I had been one of the burgeoning number of Irish families who, despite both being gainfully employed, still couldn’t quite afford that first step on the housing ladder…˜

˜’This is why we should be thinking again about homeschooling them. Because of this palaver. I’ve told you, Maddie, it’s seriously worth looking into–’
‘Not now,’ she said, cutting her husband off, irritated that he seemed to have forgotten the fact that, like him, she had a job, so where on earth would she get the time?˜

˜Since day one, I had been struggling not to think about the official stats on childhood measles and its complications:
One out of twenty kinds comes down with pneumonia.
One out of every thousand will develop encephalitis.
Encephalitis can leave a child deaf or with an intellectual disability.
For every one thousand children who get measles, one or two will die.˜

˜You had choice yourself, Tom – you were the very one who pointed out that we couldn’t have known. She’s your daughter too and you could have just as easily made the decision to keep her home.˜

Heartbreaker: Christiaan Barnard and the first heart transplant by James-Brent Styan

36963385.jpg˜Christiaan was only 34 years old when he [was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
‘It was an affliction that attacked my most precious asset – my hands.’
This situation taught the young Christiaan a valuable lesson – the importance of giving patients some hope.˜

˜[During the Mondale hearings of 1968 the chairperson asked Barnard] since taxpayers pay for the operation, surely they have a say in [heart transplants, how they get done and which donors should be used].
Christ said no and asked the chairperson who was paying for the Vietnam War. Wasn’t it the American taxpayer? The chairman agreed.
‘Then I said, since the taxpayers were paying for the war, surely they have a right to tell the generals when to attack and which weapons to use?’˜

˜Sadly, [Barnard] is hardly remembered for the incredible work he did with children at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. Yet, in his later life, he said that it was this work that he considered his true legacy, even more so than the heart transplant.˜

˜In Denmark, they ask why we allow black and coloured women to look after our children and care for them in our homes but we won’t allow them to care for our patients in our hospitals.˜

˜In South Africa, the number of heart operations offered to under-privileged is diminishing. In 1992, the national budget for heart operations allowed for approximately 142 operations per million people. By 2001, this had diminished to 66 per million while the identified need at that time stood at 356 per million. . . The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that by 2020, heart disease will be the number-one killer of people in developing countries.˜

˜In South Africa, heart disease is the leading cause of death among children under the age of 5. The WHO says that heart disease has become the leading cause of death across the globe today.˜


Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

36362385.jpg˜Each time Anna moved from her father’s world to her mother and Lydia’s, she felt as if she’d shaken free of one life for a deeper one…Back and forth she went, deeper – deeper still – until it seemed there was no place further down she could go. But somehow there always was. She had never reached the bottom.˜

˜Sometimes it’s harder to ask God for your own.˜

˜He’d tethered himself to Saint Maggie’s to fend off any possibility of being roped into Episcopal worship with his in-laws. All those Puritans, God help him. If you had to spend an hour in church, let it be gory, incense-drenched Catholicism.˜

˜She felt the knot’s weakness, like the faint, incipient bruise on an apple, and dug her fingers in.˜

˜No one talked more than men on ships, but the point of the stories they told was to hide the ones they could never divulge to anyone.˜

A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo

34219844.jpg˜If I wanted readers to understand that the people I interviewed were not that different from them, I needed to practice empathy when writing. ˜

˜I felt so bad. But they told me if I didn’t [chop the woman’s hand off with a machete], they would kill me…So I found the strength to do it because I didn’t want to die.˜

˜Islam does not allow women to play sports, the man on the other end [of the line] said, nor to wear shirts and pants. It was immodest and indecent. His voice was harsh and threatening. He told her that he was going to kill her if she didn’t stop playing basketball.˜

˜When I told her how sorry I was to hear of her brother’s death, she slightly bowed her head and lifted her shoulders. “This is the life,” she said. “No one stays alive forever.”˜

˜”Nobody rescued them,” a Chibok government official said of the girls who made it back. “I want you to stress this point. Nobody rescued them. They escaped on their own accord.”˜

˜There was something about a group of girls, urgently devoted to scoring a goal, or making a basket, through any means necessary, scuffling, pushing, and pulling, that with both strength and agency. The sight of a girl who could fight and defend and force herself into where she needed to be was frightening. It meant that she had a mind of her own that no man could touch, or hope to control.˜

The Lost Plot (The Invisible Library #4) by Genevieve Cogman

31690144.jpg˜In a high-chaos alternate world like this one, narrative tropes had an unfortunate way of coming true. Unfortunately the traditional heroine-gets-trapped-in-household-full-of-vampires story seldom had a happy ending. At least, not for the heroine.˜

˜It was like being an insect under the magnifying glass. You were safe only for as long as the focus didn’t tighten upon you.˜

˜She occasionally daydreamed about being the sort of character in a story who could faint and leave everyone else to sort things out.˜

˜Irene made a private mental resolution that if she ever became a queen, her throne would incorporate a cushion. Also a convenient bookcase.˜

˜Irene had always thought that some awakenings were better than others. For instance, waking up in bed on a morning with nothing urgent to do, a pile of books next to you and a mug of coffee within arm’s reach could be described as good. Waking up in the deserted tunnels of the London Underground to the sound of distant werewolf howls was bad.˜

The House Of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith

36506825.jpg˜It is better to have a husband who knows what you are wearing than to have one who doesn’t even notice. ˜

˜The economy. That’s the problem. The economy. Everything is going well and people are very happy and then along comes the economy. Ow! And suddenly there are no jobs any longer and we’re back to where we started.˜

˜You might think they were just stories about cattle and the men who owned them, but of course they were much more than that: they were stories about Botswana and what it meant to be a Motswana.˜

˜A gearbox will not forget you if you are unkind to it. Gearboxes have a long memory – just like elephants.˜

˜It was possible, she thought, that one wept more for those one did not know than for those one did, because there was more to regret; to lose somebody without the chance of ever showing love was a heavy loss indeed.˜

˜Planting lawn in Botswana was like planting a cactus at the North Pole: it did not make sense.˜

The Boy Made of Snow by Chloe Mayer

35848661.jpg˜Most grown-ups never though about Trolls.˜

˜She remembered reading somewhere that in the original folk stories the evil maternal figures were the children’s real birth mothers. But over the years – and presumably before publication would be permitted in Victorian times – the stories were changed and the ‘wicked stepmother’ character was created. It was considered too horrific and unnatural to contemplate that a mother may not love her own child.˜

˜Grown-ups couldn’t sling a black cloth across the moon, much as they might like to.˜

˜Sometimes, I felt as thought I’d spent my entire life waiting for her to open her eyes and see me.˜

˜None of those words seemed to explain who she was. They just described her in relation to other people. I didn’t think of her that way. She was just herself.˜

˜What would happen if I stopped being silent? What would happen if I told one more story?˜

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

36666194.jpg˜Maybe God has decided that we are an idea not worth thinking anymore.˜

˜”Indians have been adapting since before 1492 so I guess we’ll keep adapting.”
“But the world is going to pieces.”
“It is always going to pieces.”
“This is different.”
“It is always different. We’ll adapt.”˜

˜I have a sense of time folding in on itself, the same tranced awareness I experienced in the ultrasound room. I realize this: I am not at the end of things, but the beginning.˜

˜Early on, we heard about Womb Volunteers, but maybe there were not enough of them and so there is talk of a female draft now. I’ve overheard snippets of conversation. Women are being forced to try and carry to term a frozen embryo from the old in-vitro clinics. That or be inseminated with sperm from the old sperm banks.˜

˜Where will you be, my darling, the last time it snows on earth?˜