Light on Snow Review
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Nicky and her father, Robert, strap on their snowshoes and go for a routine after-school walk in the New Hampshire snow—something they’ve been doing since Nicky’s mother and baby sister died in a car accident two years ago. When they hear a wailing sound, they dismiss it as a cat until it starts to sound eerily like a human baby. They discover, to their horror, a newborn baby abandoned in the snow not far from a motel.

The baby is turned over to the social services, but Nicky can’t understand why they couldn’t keep her. In her twelve-year-old mind, she feels they have a right to the baby since she lost her own baby sister to an accident. Robert’s only answer to his daughter’s pleas is to return to the barn where he hides from the world, building furniture and grieving.

Desperate to remake some sort of family, Nicky becomes attached to the abandoned baby’s mother, Charlotte, who mysteriously shows up right as a snowstorm moves in. Her hope is that Charlotte will be able to get her baby back and that they can all live together. Robert wants Charlotte gone, but he can’t bring himself to send a sick and troubled woman out into the storm. He can’t even make himself turn her over to the police, though he knows he should, or risk becoming an accomplice to attempted murder. But neither does he want to know anything about a woman who would leave her baby to die.

So often we read about abandoned babies in the news, and our first thought is to judge the mother. Maybe we shouldn’t. In Light on Snow, I found myself withholding judgment. Something about Charlotte filled me with sympathy, and I wanted the whole story first. And this, I believe, is what makes Robert hold off on calling the police.

You’ll love these characters who have faced tragedy and struggled so hard to get past the pain to learn that good luck can be every bit as baffling and senseless as bad luck. I don’t normally like novels that are too much like life, but every now and then one comes along and touches my heart. Light on Snow is one of them. No sappy, artificial end awaits you. The story ends just like it would in real life. It could end no other way and be realistic, but it still has a satisfying conclusion.

Ms. Shreve shows heart, truth, and warmth in her writing and brings to life human nature in all its facets—a rare gift among authors today.

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