Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Chilling Read for Summer

Laura Kasischke’s Mind of Winter takes its title from Wallace Stevens’s 1921 poem, "The Snow Man."
 One must have a mind of winter
 To regard the frost and the boughs
 Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

 And have been cold a long time
 To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
 The spruces rough in the distant glitter

 Of the January sun; and not to think
 Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
 In the sound of a few leaves,

 Which is the sound of the land
 Full of the same wind
 That is blowing in the same bare place

 For the listener, who listens in the snow,
 And, nothing himself, beholds
 Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Holly Judge is the adoptive mother of a Russian girl who was rescued from a Siberian orphanage at the age of three. On Christmas morning thirteen years later, Holly awakens late with a disturbing mantra stuck in her head. “Something had followed them home from Russia.” Her husband, Eric, leaps out of bed in a rush, to pick up his parents from the airport, and Holly and her daughter are left alone in the house to prepare for Christmas dinner.

But something is not right. Holly is fixated on the strange words she woke up with, and as a heavy winter storm breaks outside, she can’t stop thinking about the original trip to Russia, about the adoption, and the years since. The reader gradually comes to understand that not all is as it seems, and that Holly may be a (gasp) unreliable narrator.

I happen to really enjoy unreliable narrators and subtly creepy stories. Mind of Winter is terrifically haunting. Although I wasn’t sure how much I liked it while I was reading it, I couldn’t put it down, and I find myself thinking about it still, days later.

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