A sampling of the opening lines from books out this week

By Richard Ford
Atlantic Monthly Press, $18.95

In the fall of 1960, when I was sixteen and my father was for a time not working, my mother met a man named Warren Miller and fell in love with him. This was in Great Falls, Montana, at the time of the Gypsy Basin oil boom, and my father had brought us there in the spring of that year from Lewiston, Idaho, in the belief that people — small people like him — were making money in Montana or soon would be, and he wanted a piece of that good luck before all of it collapsed and was gone in the wind.

American Cassandra
The Life of Dorothy Thompson
By Peter Kurth
Little Brown, $22.95

The Reverend Peter Thompson’s elder daughter, according to family legend, ran away from home for the first time at the age of three, taking with her some docile, dimly remembered childhood playmate and her father’s buggy umbrella and heading straight down the line of the Erie Railroad into the open world. Her name was Dorothy, the year was 1896, and on this occasion she got no farther than a neighbor’s gooseberry patch, where she promptly fell asleep. But the urge to flight was permanently fixed. ”I believed in dreams,” said Dorothy later. ”I believed in waking dreams.”

Stone Heart
By Luanne Rice
Viking, $19.95

Maria Dark flew north, from one America to the other, with a bag of treasures between her feet. The man beside her spoke Spanish into a cassette recorder. He seemed hardly to notice the lightning at their wings. The plane lurched, then continued to glide; orange strobes re ected on the clouds that surrounded them. A pair of stewardesses cruised the aisle, checking seatbelts. ”What time will we land?” Maria asked. ”We’re in a holding pattern over Philadelphia,” she said. ”This storm is turning to snow in New York. . . .” Lightning split the sky, and for one instant Maria wished to be on the ground anywhere: Philadelphia, Miami, Machu Picchu. Then she thought of Sophie and Nell, waiting at JFK, ready to drive her home to Hatuquitit; almost absently Maria reached into her bag for a talisman to guide the plane safely north. Her hand closed around the gold goddess she planned to give Sophie. She felt like the mysterious stranger going home, bringing storms with her.

Norma Shearer
A Life
By Gavin Lambert
Knopf, $24.95

Photographed in her Montreal home at the age of three, Edith Norma Shearer wears an enormous, dramatic white bonnet that surrounds her head like a halo. White lace drawers peep below a white knee-length dress, white socks reach midway to her rm, plump calves. She stands beside a high-backed chair, with a large white book resting on its arms, and although her hands rest on the book, she pays it no attention. Her mind is on the camera. She turns her head to hold a sidelong but intensely curious look at it, waiting for the click. Very early in her life this child knew how to take direction. The photographer has staged a carefully unnatural pose to minimize the effects of a cast in Norma’s left eye, but she not only gives him what he wants, she creates a moment of startling theater. It comes from the determined way she manages to confront the camera without looking it directly in the face.