Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas

Whiter Than Snow opens in 1920, on a spring afternoon in Swandyke, a small town near Colorado’s Tenmile Range. Just moments after four o’clock, a large split of snow separates from Jubilee Mountain high above the tiny hamlet and hurtles down the rocky slope, enveloping everything in its path including nine young children who are walking home from school. But only four children survive. Whiter Than Snow takes you into the lives of each of these families: There’s Lucy and Dolly Patch—two sisters, long estranged by a shocking betrayal. Joe Cobb, Swandyke’s only black resident, whose love for his daughter Jane forces him to flee Alabama. There’s Grace Foote, who hides secrets and scandal that belies her genteel façade. And Minder Evans, a civil war veteran who considers his cowardice his greatest sin. Finally, there’s Essie Snowball, born Esther Schnable to conservative Jewish parents, but who now works as a prostitute and hides her child’s parentage from all the world.

The book is quite a study in characterization.  After initially telling the reader about the avalanche and that nine children are buried and only four survive, the book takes a giant step back and goes into lengthy but engrossing chapters detailing the lives of each of the parents/caregivers of the children.  When we get back to the avalanche we can more keenly feel the anguish of the adults in the town.  How the tragedy brings them together is the essence of the story.  It is a reminder to us to not wait for a tragedy to give our best self to others.

4 Stars (PG – for adult situations)

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