Thursday, June 28, 2012

Whiter than Snow

Solid story teller Sandra Dallas returns to Colorado during the early 20th century in her latest historical novel Whiter than Snow. Through the story of a winter avalanche in a dirt-poor gold-mining town in Colorado that kills or injures nine schoolchildren, the author traces the life of each parent leading up to the moment when the snow rumbles down the mountain into the path of their child walking home from school. Like Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey, fate brings together formerly unconnected people when disaster strikes. As in that book, the lives of the people are traced backward from the tragic event. Unlike The Bridge of San Luis Ray where a priest witnesses a bridge falling and tries to figure out God's intent, Dallas' book does not consider the meaning of fate or God's intent. Most of the residents of the bleak town of Swandyke, Colorado have long since lost faith in God or at least stopped trying to find the meaning in the mining accidents, weather disasters, illness, poverty and wars they have experienced. They just soldier on and find comfort in their small community of the mutually bereaved and afflicted.

Sounds like a grim story, but the book is suspenseful, well-plotted and ultimately hopeful.

Recommended for fans of historical fiction, Louise Erdrich novels of the upper midwest, Robert B. Parker's westerns.

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