Whiter Than Snow
St. Martin’s, Mar 30 2010, $24.99
In April 1920, the Swandyke Avalanche came down Jubilee Mountain in Colorado killing twenty schools kids; only four survived.
The parents wait anxiously as everyone digs frantically. Age, race, religion, gender and occupation no longer are dividers. Estranged sisters Lucy and Dolly pray for their five kids between them to be safe while the former’s husband Henry takes charge and the latter’s Tom gets druink. Black widower Joe fears for his beloved Jane. Jim and Grace also worry about their offspring. Elderly Minder keeps the Civil War cemetery clean, but now fears for his grandson Emmett. Essie is a popular French hooker who is actually a New York Jew; she hopes one day to be a real mom to her Sophie raised by a nanny. All share in common their fear that their child may be dead.
The ensemble cast seems genuine before and during the disaster; especially poignant is the reaction of panicked parents as race and occupation no longer matter. Time and place come across as key elements. Although the first abrupt change in whose background story is told comes out of nowhere, readers will adapt to the switching perspectives that enable fans to know how the cast will react to the tragedy.