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Posts Tagged ‘Husband and Wife’

The recovering journalist in me is channeling the White Rabbit: “I’m late, I’m late.” The reader in me is already devouring summer books. The blogger in me is now going to play catch up over the next few days with several spring books in hopes that pesky rabbit will shut up and give this lupus-lazy tortoise a break. 

You think you know another person. You think you know yourself. Not so fast. In Leah Stewart’s two previous novels, Body of a Girl and The Myth of You and Me, the protagonists coped with questions of identity within the contexts of work, love and friendship. Now, in Husband and Wife, she adds marriage and motherhood to the mix with excellent results. Sarah Price’s nice life suddenly changes when her writer husband Nathan confesses that his new novel, Infidelity, has some basis in fact. He is appropriately remorseful. Sarah is well, what’s appropriate? Hurt, angry, resentful, worried, confused. A lot of the latter. “We, we, we. The first person plural is a hard habit to break.”

Should Sarah leave Nathan and take little Mattie and baby Binx with her? Should she resume her literary career? Should she have an affair with an old flame? In trying to make those decisions, Sarah looks back at the choices of the last decade and how each helped define her to herself and the world. Her voice is confiding, sometimes comical, always thoughtful. How did she get here, become this person? And where will she go next? The answers may surprise you, but Sarah’s choices feel real.

Whiter Than Snow is the first  novel I’ve read by Sandra Dallas. Now, I have eight new-to-me books by her I’ll have to add to the TBR stack. This fast-moving, atmospheric story begins on a spring afternoon in 1920 in a small Colorado mining town. A slab of snow slides down Jubilee Mountain, turning into an avalanche burying nine children on their way home from grade school. Readers learn early on that four survive but not their identities. Dallas than turns to their parents and their individual back stories: Two are sisters estranged by a long-ago betrayal; another is the secretive, isolated wife of the mine superintendent; another works in the “hookhouse,” hiding her Jewish past and motherhood. Then’s there’s an embittered Civil War veteran raising his only grandson by himself. The town’s one black miner is also a single father.

Dallas is two-thirds of the way through the book before she returns to the avalanche and how the town comes together to rescue the children, finding redemption and grace in the process. The plotting is predictable, and the writing can be sentimental and a tad preachy, but Dallas cares about her characters and that keeps readers turning pages. Whiter Than Snow doesn’t have the literary grit or emotional depth of Russell Banks’ small-town tragedy The Sweet Hereafter. Then again, few books do.  

Open Book: The publisher sent me a review copy of Leah Stewart’s Husband and Wife (HarperCollins), and an Authors on the Web rep sent me a copy Sandra Dallas’ Whiter Than Snow (St. Martin’s Press).

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I may have been a tad ambitious on my vacation reading. I fly home tonight, but I picked up another book to reread not on my original list, Leah Stewart’s The Myth of You and Me. Stewart has a new book coming in May, Husband and Wife, that I’m eager to get my hands on, but Myth explores some of the same issues of identity, only in the context of women’s friendship.

Meanwhile, I ripped through Josh Bazell’s Beat the Reaper, a hilarious, pulse-pounding story of a mafia hitman in witness protection as a doctor at an urban hospital. Highly recommended. I passed on my copy to my nephew in the Army, along with Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, pointing out the blurb from my original Orlando Sentinel review 20 years ago. I dipped into it before handing it over, and it’s still amazingly powerful.

While my mother was reading my copy of The Piano Teacher, I read Victor Lodato’s Mathilde Savitch, about a teenager coming to terms with the death of her older sister. Mattie has an irresistible narrative voice, and her tale is funny, fierce and moving; not the downer you might think. I gave the copy to my friend Laura, who knows a thing or two about teenage girls.

That leaves me returning home with The Tourist and The Piano Teacher still TBR. But I did scribble a few ideas for a novel in my notebook. Mmm, I have an hour before I leave for the airport…to read, to write, perhaps to pack.

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