What makes a family? That's what twelve-year-old Nicky Dillon wonders after she and her widowed father discover a wailing abandoned baby in the snow-filled woods near their New Hampshire home. Through the days that follow, the Dillons and an unexpected visitor who soon turns up at their door-a young woman evidently haunted by her own terrible choices-face a thicket of decisions, each seeming to carry equal possibilities of heartbreak and redemption. Writing with all the emotional resonance that has drawn millions of readers around the world to her fiction, Anita Shreve unfolds in Light on Snow a tender and surprising novel about love and its consequences.
|Publisher:||Little, Brown and Company|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Hometown:New Hampshire; Massachusetts
Date of Birth:1946
Education:B.A., Tufts University
Read an Excerpt
Light On Snow
By Anita Shreve
Little, BrownCopyright © 2004 Anita Shreve
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBeyond the window of my father's shop, midwinter light skims the snow. My father stands, straightening his back.
"How was school?" he asks. "Good," I say.
He puts his sander down and reaches for his jacket on a hook. I run my hand along the surface of the table. The wood is floury with dust, but satin underneath.
"You ready?" he asks. "I'm ready," I say.
My father and I leave his workshop in the barn and walk out into the cold. The air, dry and still, hurts my nose as I breathe. We lace up our snowshoes and bang them hard against the crust. A rust color is on the bark, and the sun is making purple shadows behind the trees. From time to time the light sends up a sheen of pocked glass.
We move at a good clip, dodging pine boughs, occasionally catching a shower on the back of the neck. My father says, "I feel like a dog let out to exercise at the end of the day."
The stillness of the forest is always a surprise, as if an audience had quieted for a performance. Beneath the hush I can hear the rustle of dead leaves, the snap of a twig, a brook running under a skin of ice. Beyond the woods there's the hollow road-whine of a truck on Route 89, the drone of a plane headed into Lebanon. We follow a path that is familiar, that will end at a stone wall near the summit. The wall, square on three sides, once bordered a farmer's property. The house and barn are gone, and only the foundations remain. When we reach the wall, my father will sometimes sit on it and have a cigarette.
I am twelve on this mid-December afternoon (though I am thirty now), and I don't know yet that puberty is just around the corner, or that the relentless narcissism of a teenage girl will make walking in the woods with my father just about the last thing I'll want to do on any given day after school. Taking a hike together is a habit my father and I have grown into. My father spends too many hours bent to his work, and I know he needs to get outside.
After the table is finished, my father will put it in the front room with the other furniture he has made. Fourteen pieces in two years isn't much of an output, but he's had to teach himself from books. What he can't learn from manuals, he asks a man called Sweetser down at the hardware store. My father's furniture is simple and rudimentary, and that is fine with him. It has a decent line and a passable finish, though none of that matters. What matters is that the work keeps him busy and is unlike anything he has ever done before.
A branch snaps and scratches my cheek. The sun sets. We have maybe twenty minutes left of decent light. The route back to the house is easy all the way down and can be done in less than ten. We still have time to reach the wall.
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.
"Dad," I say. I take a step toward the sound, but as abruptly as it began, it ends. Behind me snow falls with a muted thump onto the crust.
"A cat," my father says.
We begin the steep climb up the hill. My feet feel heavy at the ends of my legs. When we reach the summit, my father will judge the light, and if there's time he'll sit on the stone wall and see if he can make out our house - a smidgen of yellow through the trees. "There," he will say to me, pointing down the hill, "can you see it now?" My father has lost the weight of a once sedentary man.
His jeans are threadbare in the thighs and tinged with the rusty fur of sawdust. At best he shaves only every other day. His parka is beige, stained with spots of oil and grease and pine pitch. He cuts his hair himself, and his blue eyes are always a surprise.
I follow his tracks and pride myself that I no longer have any trouble keeping up with him. Over his shoulder he tosses me a Werther's candy, and I catch it on the fly. I pull off my mittens, tuck them under my arm, and begin to unwrap the cellophane. As I do I hear the distant thunk of a car door shutting.
We listen to the sound of an engine revving. It seems to come from the direction of a motel on the northeast side of the hill. The entrance to the motel is further out of town than the road that leads to our house, and we seldom have a reason to drive by it. Still, I know it is there, and I sometimes see it through the trees on our walks - a low, red-shingled building that does a decent business in the ski season.
I hear a third cry then - heartbreaking, beseeching, winding down to shuddering.
"Hey!" my father calls.
In his snowshoes he begins to run as best he can in the direction of the cry. Every dozen steps he stops, letting the sound guide him. I follow, and the sky darkens as we go. He takes a flashlight from his pocket and switches it on. "Dad," I say, panic rising in my chest.
The beam of light jiggles on the snow as he runs. My father begins to sweep the flashlight in an arc, back and forth, side to side. The moon lifts off the horizon, a companion in our search.
"Anybody there?" he calls out.
We move laterally around the base of the slope. The flashlight flickers off and my father shakes it to reconnect the batteries. It slips out of his glove and falls into a soft pocket of snow beside a tree, making an eerie cone of light beneath the crust. He bends to pick it up, and as he raises himself, the light catches on a patch of blue plaid through the trees.
"Hello!" he calls. The woods are silent, mocking him, as if this were a game.
My father waves the flashlight back and forth. I'm wondering if we shouldn't turn around and head back to the house. It's dangerous in the woods at night; it's too easy to get lost. My father makes another pass with the flashlight, and then another, and it seems he has to make twenty passes before he catches again the patch of blue plaid. There's a sleeping bag in the snow, a corner of flannel turned over at its opening.
"Stay here," my father says.
I watch my father run forward in his showshoes, the way one sometimes does in dreams - unable to make the legs move fast enough. He crouches for better leverage and keeps a steady bead on the bag. When he reaches the plaid flannel, he tears it open. I hear him make a sound unlike any I have ever heard before. He falls to his knees in the snow.
"Dad!" I shout, already running toward him.
My arms are flailing, and it feels as though someone is pushing against my chest. My hat falls off, but I keep on clumping through the snow. I am breathing hard when I reach him, and he doesn't tell me to go away. I look down at the sleeping bag.
A small face gazes up at me, the eyes wide despite their many folds. The spiky black hair is gelled with birth matter. The baby is wrapped in a bloody towel, and its lips are blue.
My father bends his cheek to the tiny mouth. I know enough not to make a sound.
With one swift movement he gathers up the icy sleeping bag, presses it close to him, and stands. But the material is cheap and slippery, and he can't get a decent grip. I hold my arms out to catch the baby.
He kneels again in the snow. He sets his bundle down, unzips his jacket, and tears open his flannel shirt, the buttons popping as he goes. He unwraps the infant from the bloody towel. Six inches of something I will later learn is cord hang from the baby's navel. My father puts the child close to his skin, holding the head upright in the palm of one hand. Without even knowing that I've looked, I understand the infant is a girl.
My father staggers to his feet. He wraps his flannel shirt and parka around the child, folding the jacket tight with his arms. He shifts his bundle to make a closed package. "Nicky," my father says.
I look up at him.
"Hold on to my jacket if you need to," he says, "but don't let yourself get more than a foot or two behind me." I grab the edge of his parka.
"Keep your head down and watch my feet."
We move by the smell of smoke. Sometimes we have the scent, and sometimes we don't. I can see the silhouettes of trees, but not their branches.
"Hang in there," my father says, but I don't know if it is to me or to the infant against his chest that he is speaking.
We half slide, half run down the long hill, my thighs burning with the strain. My father lost the flashlight when he left the sleeping bag in the snow, and there isn't time to go back for it. We move through the trees, and the boughs scratch my face. My hair and neck are soaked from melted snow that freezes again on my forehead. From time to time I feel a rising fear: We are lost, and we won't get the baby out in time. She will die in my father's arms. No, no, I tell myself, we won't let that happen. If we miss the house, we'll eventually hit the highway. We have to. I see the light from a lamp in my father's workshop.
"Dad, look," I say.
The last hundred yards seems the longest distance I have ever run in my life. I open the door and brace it for my father. We wear our snowshoes into the barn, the bamboo and gut slapping as we make our way to the wood-stove. My father sits in a chair. He opens his jacket and looks down at the tiny face. The baby's eyes are closed, the lips still bluish. He puts the back of his hand to the mouth, and from the way he closes his eyes I can tell that she's breathing.
I unlace my snowshoes and then undo my father's. "An ambulance won't make it up the hill," my father says. Holding the child against his skin, he stands. "Come with me."
We move out the barn door, along the passageway to the house, and into the back hallway. My father takes the stairs two at a time and turns into his bedroom. Clothes litter the floor, and a fan of magazines is on the bed. I hardly ever go into my father's bedroom. He snatches up a sweater but tosses it away because of the roughness of the yarn. He gathers up a flannel shirt and realizes that it hasn't yet been washed. In the corner is a blue plastic laundry basket that my father and I take to the Laundromat every week or so. Betweentimes he uses it as a kind of bureau drawer.
"Hand me that," he says, pointing.
With one arm, he sweeps the magazines from the bed. I set the laundry basket on the mattress. He takes the baby out, wraps her in two clean flannel shirts, front to back, the small face above the folds. He makes a nest of sheets in the basket, and then he lays the infant gently in. "Okay then," he says to steady himself. "Okay now."
I climb into the truck. My father sets the basket on my lap.
"You all right?" he asks.
I nod, knowing that no other answer is at all possible. My father gets into the truck and puts the key into the ignition. I know he's praying that the engine will start. It catches the first try only half the time in winter. The engine coughs, and he coaxes it to a whine. I'm afraid to look at the infant in the plastic basket, afraid I won't see the tiny puffs of breath in the frigid air, mimicking my own.
My father drives as fast as he dares. I grit my teeth in the ruts. The frozen lane is ridged up from the early snows and thaws of the fall. In the spring, before the town comes by to grade it, the road will be nearly impassable. Last spring, during a two-week melt, I had to stay at my friend Jo's house so that I could go to school. My father, who had taken great pains to be alone, finally walked into town one day, both to see his daughter and to break his cabin fever.
Marion, who tends the register at Remy's, tried to bring him home in her Isuzu, but she couldn't make it past the first bend. My father had to walk the rest of the distance, and his calf muscles ached for days.
The baby snorts and startles me. She gives a wail, and even in the weak light from the dashboard, I can see the angry red of her skin. My father puts his hand out to touch her. "Atta girl," he whispers in the dark.
He keeps his hand lightly on the soft mound of flannel shirts. I wonder if the motion of soothing Clara is coming back to him now and hurting his chest. The road down the hill seems longer than I remembered it. I hope the baby will cry all the way to Mercy.
My father guns the engine when he hits the pavement, and the truck fishtails from ice in the treads. He pushes the speedometer as high as he can without losing control.
We pass the Mobil station and the bank and the one-room elementary school from which I graduated just the year before. I wonder if my father will stop at Remy's and hand the baby over to Marion, who could call for an ambulance.
But my father bypasses the store, because stopping will only delay what he's already doing - delivering the infant to someone who will know what to do with her. We drive past the small village green that is used as a skating rink in winter. In the middle is a flagpole with a spotlight on it.
Who left the baby in the sleeping bag?
My father turns at the sign for Mercy. The driveway to the hospital is lined with yellow lights, and I can see the baby, scrunching her face, ugly now. But I remember the eyes looking up at me in the woods - dark eyes, still and watchful. My father pulls up to Emergency and leans on the horn.
The door on my side swings open, and a security guard in uniform pushes his face into the truck.
"What's the horn for?" he asks.
Excerpted from Light On Snow by Anita Shreve Copyright © 2004 by Anita Shreve. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Some reviewers here must have missed all the lovely images and themes in this wonderful book (I listened to the audio cassette). The story starts off with a bang, and is told in the viewpoint of Nicky, the daughter. It develops realistically, as Nicky and her Dad deal with the situation. Light on Snow can mean so many things - think about it and read it again.
I recently found Anita Shreve and her books and I have read a few. This one does not disappoint. I couldn't put it down.
Although I usually enjoy this author, Light on Snow left me feeling manipulated. Fascinating premise - How could any mother DO that ?! - but this question is made irrelevant as Charlotte is innocent of fault except for naivete. Total copout on Shreve's part.
A smart, thoughtful and deeply feeling work. I loved reading this!
Honest, clean, visual, believable. Good solid writing.
Anita Shreve has done it again! This suspense filled book kept me reading for hours a day. The whole plot was full of excitement. Anite Shreve did a wonderful job of making the book come to life and making me feel as if I were really there.
I really enjoyed this book. Simply written but deeply felt, it's a story about a wounded family being dragged from their isolation by another tragedy.
I liked this book written in the first person from the perspective of a pre-teen who, with her father, finds a baby in the snow. Sweetly written.
A baby is found in a snow-filed woods in New Hampshire by a man and his 12 year old daughter. A young woman shows up at their home later, and then each of them face decisions that will change their futures forever. Shreve's writing is spare, neat and crisp, yet the principal characters are fully formed, and their lives worth caring about. This is a book that is engrossing and will keep you thinking long after you have laid it down. A must read than will linger in your mind for days.
An after-school stroll leads to a life-altering event for widower Robert Dillon and his 12-year-old daughter, Nicky, in this delicate new novel by acclaimed author Shreve (All He Ever Wanted,etc.). In the woods surrounding their secluded home in Shepherd, N.H., Robert and Nicky make a startling discovery¿a baby abandoned and left to die in the snow. The infant survives, but the incident leaves its mark. Still recovering from the painful loss of her mother and infant sister two years earlier, and readjusting to the shock of a sudden move from suburban Westchester to rural Shepherd, Nicky struggles to reconcile her innocent notions of adult integrity with the bleak reality of their discovery. The tenuous sense of normalcy Robert manages to sustain is broken with the appearance of Charlotte, the baby's young mother, on his doorstep. Retold 18 years later by an adult Nicky but written in the present tense, the story shifts brilliantly between childlike visions of a simple world and the growing realization of its cruel ambiguities. Aside from a few saccharine moments and a rather pat ending, Shreve does a skilled job of portraying grief, conflict and anger while leaving room for hope, redemption and renewal. Her characters are sympathetic without being pitiable, and her prose remains deceptively simple and eloquent throughout.
Twelve-year-old Nicky Dillon and her father, out for an afternoon hike in the snow, happened upon a crying newborn wrapped in a sleeping bag and left to die alone in the cold. Their rescue of this helpless infant is the catalyst for helping Nicky (and her father) come to terms with the sudden and tragic loss of her mother and baby sister two years earlier near Christmastime.Nicky and her father have grieved separately, but the quest to answer questions about this baby and the parents who abandoned it bring them closer together. Engaging and entertaining characters with a believable storyline. Recommended.
Anita Shreve is one of those authors that makes me shiver. Partly with anticipation (a new title of hers is always exciting), and partly from fear. She touches on sensitive topics, and more than once I have put one of her books down for months, because I thought I wasn't strong enough to handle that particular topic at that time. But this power she has, is a real strength. I mean, how can she affect me more closely, more realistically, and more thoroughly than watching the news? Her characters are always real and compelling, and there are always more sides to the story than you thought at first. She leaves you thinking about what else might be going on behind the scenes.Light on Snow is lighter than some other offerings, but as a result, there was nothing stopping me from diving in fully, and reading this book until it was done. And then re-reading some of the bits to make sure I ate up the whole thing. I loved all of the characters, (that's rare; usually there's someone that you can't stand in a book; but this one was full of friends). This would be a good book in which to become familiar with Anita Shreve. Very enjoyable, if a little lighter than others (if finding a baby; abandoned to die, in the snow, can be called "lighter" than other topics).
Okay. Readable. Very movie-of-the-week-ish.
I really loved this book.
I've found some of Anita Shreve's books to be dense and involved reads but this one was exceptionally light. The story concerns the emotional fall out after a newborn baby is found wrapped in a sleeping bag in the snow. The narrator is Nicky, the 12 year old who found the baby along with her dad while walking in the woods. It's mentioned that she's looking back on the events from the age of 30, but this doesn't really make much sense as apart from talking about things that would have embarrassed a 12 year old there's nothing added by this device and we don't find out anything that happened to the cast of characters after the week of the story.
Not my favourite of Shreve's books.
Just awful. Maybe I will get rid of that one star.
I really loved this book. Nicky sure has lots of responsibilities to be a twelve year old girl. She is also a big support for her sad, depressed father. I wish that the Dillon's could have kept the baby girl, but that did not happen. I felt sorry for Charlotte. I wish she would have been able to live with the Dillon's and everyone would live happily ever after. I think that it still ended pretty good anyway.
I really enjoyed this book. The characters were all someone I would like to get to know. It was interesting to watch the family dynamics after the arrival of the baby and then Charlotte. The father is so dependent on Nicky in the beginning, but then breaks out of his comfort zone to save the abandoned child. It reassured my belief in "right place, right time".
Easy to read and interesting
12 yr old Nicky was taking a walk in the forest with her father when they heard the cry that would change their lives. The cry of a baby abandoned in the snow. Follow the events which cause the shadows and questions that laid still and quiet since the death of Nicky's mom and little sister surface, as does the mother of the abandoned child. Discover the choices which lead each person to be where they are and the little details which enable them to grow to be who they destined to become.I found this book to be completely engrossing and could not put it down until the last page was turned. I could feel the emotions emanating from the characters. I was impressed with the vividness in which Anita Shreve was able to bring them to life. I found myself on a wild emotional roller coaster ride as I turned the pages. A must read.
A somehow compelling narrative; I felt very close to the girl telling the story. Very little action, but a warm enjoyable quick read.
Written through the eyes of a 12-year-old (she is frequently unbelievably perceptive for her age) this is a sweet story about a father and daughter unable to recover after the loss of half their family. The father we are told is not even trying to recover. What they find on a walk in the snow becomes a two-way miracle that leads to a sort-of happy ending. A quick, okay read, not memorable.
I just finished reading Light on Snow by Anita Shreve. Twelve-year-old Nicky Dillon and her widowed father find an abandoned baby in the woods on a snowy winter's night in New Hampshire. This leads Nicky to question what makes a family, especially when an unexpected visitor - a young woman who's haunted by her own terrible choices - shows up at the Dillons door. The Dillons and their guests face many emotional decisions each of which could lead to heartbreak or redemption. I really liked this story; it's easy reading and a riveting storyline. I give it an A+!
This was a quick read but definitely not the most thought-provoking or heartfelt I've ever read.It is about one family's struggle to overcome a tragic past and their need to move forward into a healed future. Their need - whether they know it or not - for redemption.Some points to consider while reading this book are:What IS a family? What makes up a family? What about the "precise intersections" that occur in our lives - are they truly 'random'?I would've given this book a higher rating had it not been for the ending. I felt that the ending was weak and found that the book didn't 'sit well' with me because of it. There were several plausible endings from what I could figure, none of which the author chose.A fairly good read that proved to be disappointing in the end.
Anita Shreve weaves a tale of suspense through the eyes of an 11 year old girl who finds an abandoned baby in the snow. Her father, recovering from a haunted past, takes in a young woman who develops a friendship with the girl. However, the secrets that are revealed threaten to blow this father and daughter forever apart.