The Color of Water

by: James McBride

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

[T]he greatest sin a person can do to another is to take away that life. Next to that, all the rule and religions in the world are secondary; mere words and beliefs that people choose to believe and kill and hate by. My life won't be lived that way, and neither, I hope, will my children's. I left for New York happy in the knowledge that my grandmother had not suffered and died for nothing.

James speaks these words after he wakes up in the middle of the night in his motel room in Suffolk, Virginia, his mother's hometown. He is restless and cannot seem to find what he thought he was looking for. He wanders down to the Nansemond River to gaze into the night, and sweeping emotions overtake him. What follows is one of the most moving passages in the book. In this moment, James celebrates his past. He may be closer to it than he is at any other point in the book.