Review: Light on Snow by Anita Shreve

Light on SnowSnowshoeing over crusted snow in the woods near their home, twelve-year-old Nicky Dillon and her father come upon something shocking. There in the pristine winter scene, an abandoned baby wails, its survival made possible only by the coincidence of their having chosen this path for their late afternoon outing. In the days and weeks that follow, Nicky glimpses corners of the adult world that she never dreamed existed. As she follows the fate of the baby girl and talks with the police officers assigned to investigate, Nicky for the first time asks questions about her life’s strange shape. Why has her father moved them to this isolated New England farmhouse? How can they come to terms with the tragedy they left behind? And how can she bridge the chasm between his needs and her own growing sense of the world? Nicky’s ideas about life are thrown into stark relief by the arrival of a young woman haunted by her own terrible choices. Together, Nicky, her father, and this woman must work their way through a thicket of decisions, each one seeming to carry equal possibilities of heartbreak or redemption.” – Goodreads

Anita Shreve, thy hath redeemed thyself! Years ago, folks, I read The Pilot’s Wife – and was driven to insanity from boredom. I immediately shelved Shreve onto my “Stay Clear” author shelf and moved on. A few weeks ago, I relented and gave dear Anita a second chance – and she blew me out of the water. Light on Snow is a haunting yet hopeful tale of grief, love, loss, and learning to move forward in the face of tragedy.

Nicky Dillon and her father, Robert, have recently moved to an isolated village in New Hampshire after the devastating loss of her mother and baby sister in a fatal car accident. On a cold winter day, as the two are taking a snowshoe walk through the woods near their home, they hear the cry of a baby in the wilderness.

I hear the first cry then, and I think it is a cat. I stop under a canopy of pine and listen, and there it is again. A rhythmic cry, a wail.”

Nicky and her father are shocked to find a newborn infant wrapped in a sleeping bag, abandoned in the snow. They rush her to the hospital and are touted as local heroes. After the rescue, Nicky is overcome with a torrent of emotions. She wants so badly to keep the baby, to help to raise it with her father and perhaps heal from some of the grief of losing her baby sister and mother. Robert also is flooded with emotion and memories; father and daughter struggle to maintain the fragile sense of normalcy they had just barely reached before. They might have been successful, if not for the appearance of a stranger at their door a few days after the rescue. Who is this young woman? Why has she sought them out? A snowstorm strands her in their home overnight and all three experience changes and growth they had never expected as they work their way through heartbreak and toward redemption.

Light on Snow was a fast-paced and heavily emotional read. There were many layers to this story, which Shreve wove together expertly, creating a heart-rending and satisfying tale. Robert’s grief over the loss of his wife and youngest daughter is palpable, and his struggle to manage that grief while still being there for Nicky is so real. Nicky’s longing for a mother, and for the return of a deep connection with her father is written with almost agonizing accuracy. This was a strongly written and well-told story, one that I savored greatly. I am quite glad that I gave Anita Shreve’s writing another chance, and look forward to checking out more of her writing in the future.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Free Library of Philadelphia Digital Library

3 thoughts on “Review: Light on Snow by Anita Shreve

  1. 2old2likesnooki says:

    I read this book too! I swear I did, cover to cover. I thought it was amazing. So beautiful, a really intense love story, not kissy kissy love, more love without romance per se…. a story about love and therefore pain. So good. As I remember it, I give it a 5!

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