Still Lives

Still Life book coverSome interesting thoughts about how to live life in Still Life (2005), Louise Penny’s first mystery in her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, set in the fictional village of Three Pines, near Montreal:


“Everyday for Lucy’s entire dog life Jane had sliced a banana for breakfast and had miraculously dropped one of the perfect disks onto the floor where it sat for an instant before being gobbled up. Every morning Lucy’s prayers were answered, confirming her belief that God was old and clumsy and smelt like roses and lived in the kitchen.

“But no more.

“Lucy knew her God was dead. And she now knew the miracle wasn’t the banana, it was the hand that offered the banana.”


About Brother Albert’s (apparently fictional) book titled Loss:

“‘His theory is that life is loss,’ said Myrna after a moment. ‘Loss of parents, loss of loves, loss of jobs. So we have to find a higher meaning in our lives than those things and people. Otherwise we’ll lose ourselves.’

“‘What do you think of that?’

“‘I think he’s right. I was a psychologist in Montreal before coming here a few years ago. Most of the people came through my door because of a crisis in their lives, and most of those crises boiled down to loss. Loss of a marriage or an important relationship. Loss of security. A job, a home, a parent. Something drove them to ask for help and to look deep inside themselves. And the catalyst was often change and loss.’

“‘Are they the same thing?’

“‘For someone not well skilled at adapting they can be.’

“‘Loss of control?’

“‘That’s a huge one, of course. Most of us are great with change, as long as it was our idea. But change inposed from the outside can send some people into a tailspin. I think Brother Albert hit it on the head. Life is loss. But out of that, as the book stresses, come freedom. If we can accept that nothing is permanent, and change is inevitable, if we can adapt, then we’re going to be happier people.'”


“‘I lost sympathy with many of my patients. After twenty-five years of listening to their complaints I finally snapped. I woke up one morning bent out of shape about this client who was forty-three but acting sixteen. Every week he’d come with the same complaints, “Someone hurt me. Life is unfair. It’s not my fault.” For three years I’d been making suggestions, and for three years he’d done nothing. Then, listening to him one day, I suddenly understood. He wasn’t changing because he didn’t want to. He had no intention of changing.  … And I realised in that instant that most of my clients were exactly like him.’

“‘Surely, though, some were trying.’

“‘Oh, yes. But they were the ones who got better quite quickly. … The others said they wanted to get better, but I think, and this isn’t popular in psychology circles, … I think many people love their problems. … They lead “still” lives, waiting. Waiting for someone to save them. Expecting someone to save them. … The thing is no one else can save them because the problem is theirs and so is the solution.  … The fault lies with us, and only us. It’s not fate, not genetics, not bad luck, and it’s definitely not Mom and Dad. Ultimately it’s us and our choices. But, but … the most powerful, spectacular things is that the solution rests with us as well.'”


“‘Abby Hoffman said we should all eat what we kill. That would put an end to war.’

Not for the first time Beauvoir was at a loss for words with Gamache. Was he serious? Was he, perhaps, a little touched? And who was Abbé Offman? A local cleric? Sounds like exactly the sort of things some Christian mytic would say.”


4 thoughts on “Still Lives

  1. I am so disappointed to hear that “Loss” is not a real book. Am reading “Still Life” and came across the above passages and said I’ve got to read “Loss”. Maybe Louise Penny could take a stab at it. I’m really enjoying her books and her lovely writing.

  2. Me too. I love books that introduce me to other books. This is the first time I couldn’t find them (“Being” and “Loss”). Louise, voudrier vous les ecrire?

  3. Yes, I did check the internet on the chance there really was a book, “Loss”. That is a testament to Penny’s writing skills. The artist in me is totally enthralled with the artistry in “Still Life” and the surprise in finding it in a mystery.

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