Sunday, December 5, 2010

Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas

This novel, set in 1920, is about a small Colorado mining town devastated by an avalanche that traps and buries several schoolchildren underneath the snow. As their anxious parents wait, wonder, hope, and pray that their child or children will emerge from the snow alive, they look back and reflect upon their lives, taking the readers on a journey to the past with them.

First there are the Patch sisters, smart Lucy and pretty Dolly, who are torn apart by their love for the same man. Then there is Joe Cobb, a Negro who fled the lynch-happy South where white always trumps black to make a new life for himself and his little girl. And Grace Foote, born to wealth and privilege, the wife of the mining superintendent, who lives a lonely, solitary life because she doesn't know how to mix in with and befriend the local women who see her as "putting on airs." Then there is the sad tale of Minder Evans, a Confederate war veteran haunted by the secrets of his past, a moment of cowardice that changed his life forever. And Essie Snowball, a prostitute who dreams of making a better life for herself and her daughter with her talent for sewing; she is saving up to move and open a dressmaker's shop when the tragedy strikes.

All of them forget their differences as they spend the night digging and praying, hoping their children will emerge from the cold white snow alive.

Ms. Dallas does a wonderful job of creating a variety of unique characters, people the reader can identity with and feel for. As we wait along with them for the outcome, whether happy or tragic, their stories never fail to move and captivate, and make the reader think about the manifold complexities of life, luck, love, and human relationships of all kinds.

I really enjoyed this book and hope to read some more of Ms. Dallas books, both previous and future ones.

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