My baby sister is doing an MA in creative writing. Currently she is supposed to be looking at the work of Anita Shreve as people have suggested that their writing has common elements and styles. This set me off on a treasure hunt around the charity shops in my lunchtimes to see if I could gather her some research material. I hit the jackpot and almost dislocated my shoulder carrying home my booty.
My sister and her tribe are heading south to stay with us over the Bank Holiday next week so I will be parting with this newly acquired stack in just under a week. Nothing for it but to get stuck in. Light on Snow bobbed its way to the surface and so I began and I couldn’t put it down. I even resorted to reading in bed before I went to sleep, something I NEVER do. Then yesterday morning, instead of reading DGR, HD and SiaB, something amounting to a cardinal sin as far as I am concerned, at 6 am I made myself a drink and crept back to bed to read. I was at work before anyone else as usual but instead of shuffling papers and attempting to prioritise tasks whilst the computers did their early morning calisthenics, I READ, all the time with one ear cocked for the sound of footsteps at the front door. I didn’t go for a walk at lunchtime, I READ and finally finished Light on Snow.
My problem is that I think I may have started with AS’s best book. I have glanced at pages of the others and they don’t sing out to me the way this one did. A seemingly ordinary book that starts:
Beyond the window of my father’s shop, midwinter light skims the snow. My father stands, straightening his back.
‘How was school?’ he asks.
‘Good,’ I say.
He puts his sander down and reaches for his jacket on a hook. I run my hand along the surface of the table. The wood is floury with dust, but satin underneath.
‘You ready?’ he asks.
‘I’m ready,’ I say.
My father and I leave his workshop in the barn and walk out into the cold. The air, dry and still, hurts my nose as I breathe. We lace up our snowshoes and bang them hard against the crust. A rust color is on the bark, and the sun is making purple shadows behind the trees. From time to time the light sends up a sheen of pocked glass.
Nothing prepares you for the rest of the book that works like a two-ply yarn. Each strand can exist on its own but when combined the two have an incredible strength. The two stories intertwine in a way that some might feel is too contrived at times. Surely events and occurrences ARE more meaningful because of what we ourselves have experienced. Incidents that would pass by another cause us to have eyes filled with tears and to react to others in a particular way. Our experiences give us the skills needed in a particular situation. Our presence in a place, at a particular time can, and quite often does, make a difference. We can be responsible for causing someone else to take a different path, not necessarily a better path, just different.
Most of the time we see events through the eyes of a twelve year old girl, share her acceptance of her way of life. If this book only causes us to momentarily think about how our behaviour and actions influence the way a child has to live then it will be reason enough for it to have been written.