“‘You and your sister have the worst-looking shoes I’ve ever seen,’ Jeff said.”

One of the things that has changed in my family over the years is that this observation is no longer so overwhelmingly applicable to us. But part of my memory of my family is trapped in how things used to be, when you would be lucky to see shoes among us rampaging heathens, and if you did, you be even more lucky if you didn’t see a sock–or at any rate, a foot–winking out from the wide tear along the toe of the shoe.

Your shoes tell about you. They are affected by the way you walk. Shoes and walking are old metaphors for how we live our lives. “If you were in my shoes… ” The fictional Tillermans seem to have sprung up out of the same kind of shoes my family has worn.

“Seeing Dicey [Tillerman] as Phil saw her, Jeff just laughed. Phil joined in, and Jeff didn’t say what he might have because Phil wouldn’t have understood. […] She was tart, bitter — alive; and she made him feel alive too, awake.”

“She was often bossy, and she always knew what she wanted, so she was impatient with anyone less decisive. She was harsh, sometimes; too quick to judge, especially people who didn’t work the same way she did.”

“What he liked was the person he became around [the Tillermans].”

That last line is from late in A Solitary Blue, and it echoes passages from much earlier in the book. The story is about what happens to Jeff and who he becomes when he is around different people who are important to him. The Tillermans are blunt and nearly all contentious. They are impossible for Jeff to please because they give him no cues as to what might please them, and have no interest in being pleased by Jeff.

Earlier in the story Jeff has a much different experience with someone of a different personality:

“He felt as if he had been cold, frozen down to his bones and into his marrow, and suddenly now he lay under the warmth of the sun. He could feel himself growing easy, relaxed, under the warmth.”

“It was also going from one self to another.”

“But she wore sandals with heels this time, and when she walked there was a delicate clicking noise to mark every step.”

Quotes above from Cynthia Voigt’s A Solitary Blue may have been pulled from passages that are pages or even chapters apart, and used in a different sequence than they appear in the book.