Title: The Snow Collectors
Writer: Tina May Hall
Publishing House: Dzanc Books
Date of Publication: February 12th 2020
Rating: 5 stars
”I found the dead woman at the edge of my woods on the last day of January. King month. Thirty-one spikes on a crown of icicles.”
A young woman lives in Alaska. Alone, her sole company a dog named Rembrandt. Henna tries to build her life in a wildly beautiful, inhospitable landscape and escape the shadow of a family long gone. But the winter hides its own secrets, Henna finds herself faced with a macabre discovery and a woman from the past invades her world in a haunting story that demonstrates how the past and the present are tightly linked, how our lives are interconnected even when we least expect it.
”That night, at dinner, the village children reported there were ghosts in the library tower.”
The story is told from Henna’s POV and we are given only brief glimpses in the life of a woman of the 19th century whose presence permeates the novel. Although I enjoy the technique of the dual time narrative, it has become a trope commercialized and cheapened in the hands of weak writers. Here, Tina May Hall decided to focus on Henna, resulting in a strongly developed plot centered around a well-written, realistic heroine. The prose vividly depicts the symbolism of the wintry landscape. The quiet, the purity of a world covered in snow, the evil that lurks underneath. The small community and the fact that everyone knows everyone create a claustrophobic feeling and there are folklore and bookish references that had me trying to decipher whether there was something more, something that would prove crucial to the conclusion of the story.
There are moments of serene beauty in this winter’s tale and many extracts that lent a gothic aura to what I felt was a very realistic search for events long forgotten. There is a mysterious estate, strange bird cries, a rather suspicious housekeeper and a formidable matriarch. And the cold, the snow, the confusing thoughts, the awful feeling of being alone, not knowing whom to trust, not knowing what it is you are searching for. The dialogue is limited and the psychological repercussions of past loses become more evident as we plunge deeper into Henna’s mind. This results in the creation of a rather dark atmosphere that is refined and vague like a strange dream that frightens us.
This novel is a beautiful combination of Literary Thriller and a contemporary story of being able to overcome shadows, to trust others, to recognize the ties of the past and answer its questions. Perfect for a cold winter’s night…
”Nine planes flew overhead in the dark sky, packed with skin and bones. Nine whales spun in the thick sea. Nine semi-trucks slept on the highway to the west. Nine houses glowed in a gold line down the hill. Nine turtle shells were buried in Mariel’s yard. Nine conches served as their gravestones. Nine wishes buzzed around my head.”
Many thanks to Catherine Sinow, Dzanc Books and Tina May Hall for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.