What should the first sentence in a great novel do? Set the tone, establish the location and perhaps introduce the main character? The first sentence in Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout does more than that. It gives us the dying river image, which prepares us for the idea that something important has gone terribly wrong. (And it has.) By meeting the villain — Mr. Robertson — before we meet the two central characters, we see which force has dominated. Will things get better? Here is a hint: the last two words of the novel are “golden air.”
Elizabeth Strout, Amy and Isabelle (New York: Vintage Books: A Division of Random House, Inc., 1999), p. 3.