This is a deeply moving, powerful story that explores love and intimacy in the face of loneliness, fear and loss. It begins at the onset of a huge blizzard in Maine. Eric, a 34-year old lawyer separated from his wife Alison (at her initiative), helps a young homeless-looking woman get her groceries to her cabin in the woods, and then the two of them get stuck there as the storm worsens.
The woman, Danielle, 28, is thin, unkempt, and bruised; clearly she is frightened of Eric and keeps telling him her husband Jimmy will be back any moment. Eric has no wish to take advantage of Danielle even as he knows Jimmy couldn’t get home if he tried, no more than Eric can get out. So Eric and Danielle try to make the best of the situation – each in their own way. Over the course of their confinement, a strange and wonderful intimacy develops between them. It turns out they each need rescuing, and they come up with an unusual way to make it happen.
Discussion: There is some beautifully crafted and evocative writing in this book. When Eric looks out from the cabin at the falling snow:
…gazing long, [he] admired the birches bowed in fair arcs on the far bank, balsam firs like court ladies in tiered dresses, green emerging only darkly from the strange humps where whole jungles of alder ought to be.”
And how perfectly illuminating when Eric contemplates what went wrong with his marriage, thinking about how he and Alison started to argue about the minutest factual things:
…these two people who deeply agreed on everything getting as hot over details of their orthodoxy as the old protestant pastors, nuanced positions breaking the church of their romance into splinters and then splinters of splinters, sharp things to be deployed at any time.”
Or this stunning passage, when Eric begins to notice Danielle’s odd appeal:
Something startling in the shapes her clavicles made, not that he was looking. She’d startled him all day with her strange, retractable beauty, like a cat’s claws.”
Evaluation: This is a lovely book. I was reminded a great deal of Tom McNeal’s To Be Sung Underwater. The ending here is much more uplifting, but the adult exploration of the nature of love is similar. I definitely want to read the books he has written previously. Highly recommended.
Published by Algonquin Books, 2014