At night she would lie huddled and trembling beneath the blanket for hours, chilled to the marrow. She made herself as small as she could, drawing her legs up under her and hugging herself. The cold would sit between her shoulder-blades gnawing like pain. She carried it in her body all day, and it accompanied her to bed. Her feet, like blocks of ice, seemed not to belong to her, and she became cramped and sore from her huddled position.
It occurred to Alberta that ultimately Jacob was the only one who turned his true face out to the world, a face full of undaunted confidence in his own two strong arms.
And something dawned on her. All the pain, all the vain longing, all the disappointed hope, all the anxiety and privation, the sudden numbing blows that result in years going by before one understands what happened — all this was knowledge of life. Bitter and difficult, exhausting to live through, but the only way to knowledge of herself and others. … It was painful, but a kind of liberation all the same; a rent in my ignorance, a membrane split before my eyes.
“I would put in people I knew, Alphonsine and Madame Boudarias and you, Sivert, painting artichokes.”