“Even if it meant that she had failed, she was glad. And if what she'd wanted had been impossible from the start, still there was a certain lonely comfort in the fact that she'd known it was impossible and had gone ahead and done it anyway.”
“The possible, as it was presented in her Health textbook (a mathematical progression of dating, "career," marriage, and motherhood), did not interest Harriet. Of all the heroes on her list, the greatest of them all was Sherlock Holmes, and he wasn’t even a real person. Then there was Harry Houdini. He was the master of the impossible; more importantly, for Harriet, he was a master of escape. No prison in the world could hold him: he escaped from straitjackets, from locked trunks dropped in fast rivers and from coffins buried six feet underground.
And how had he done it? He wasn’t afraid. Saint Joan had galloped out with the angels on her side but Houdini had mastered fear on his own. No divine aid for him; he’d taught himself the hard way how to beat back panic, the horror of suffocation and drowning and dark. Handcuffed in a locked trunk in the bottom of a river, he squandered not a heartbeat on being afraid, never buckled to the terror of the chains and the dark and the icy water; if he became lightheaded, for even a moment, if he fumbled at the breathless labor before him– somersaulting along a river-bed, head over heels– he would never come up from the water alive.
A training program. This was Houdini’s secret.”
“But Robin: their dear little Robs. More than ten years later, his death remained an agony; there was no glossing any detail; its horror was not subject to repair or permutation by any of the narrative devices that the Cleves knew. And—since this willful amnesia had kept Robin's death from being translated into that sweet old family vernacular which smoothed even the bitterest mysteries into comfortable, comprehensible form—the memory of that day's events had a chaotic, fragmented quality, bright mirrorshards of nightmare which flared at the smell of wisteria, the creaking of a clothes-line, a certain stormy cast of spring light.”