On cold, dreary days, there’s nothing better than a warm fireplace (or well-lit Christmas tree), a cup of hot tea, and a good book. That’s just an undeniable fact. If you are interested in a few “wintery” books ideas to curl up with, read ahead.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is set in Alaska in 1920, a brutal place to homestead and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart. The farm is too much for Jack to take on and Mabel is lonely and beginning to lose it. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning, the snow child is gone--but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale. Where did she come from? A re-telling of a Russian fairytale, The Snow Child brings to life the harsh but alluring landscape of Alaska. The language used to craft the isolated and cold climate is beautiful and evocative – this is definitely a book for the prose and setting-driven reader.
In One Day in December, released just a few months ago, author Josie Silver delivers a moving story of love, friendship and the mysteriousness of fate. The novel begins all the way back in December 2008. Amidst the chaos and exhaustion of the Christmas holidays, our heroine Laurie has one perfect moment in time. From a crowded bus, she locks eyes with a man through her window and time seemingly freezes. Their connection is instantaneous and life-changing…but then the bus she’s sitting on pulls away from the stop he is waiting at. Fast forward one year later and Laurie’s best friend has just introduced her new boyfriend at their Christmas party. Naturally, it’s the man from the bus stop (Jack) and now Laurie is head-over-heels in love with someone who is completely off limits to her. What follows is a nearly ten year journey told from the perspective of both Laurie and Jack as their lives twist and turn but never quite connect. I loved this story and if you enjoy the movie Love Actually, this will probably appeal to you too.
If you are looking for something on the darker side, there’s The Hunger by Alma Katsu. It is loosely based on the story of The Donner Party, a group of American pioneers who set out for California in a wagon train in May 1846. A series of unfortunate mishaps forced them to spend the winter of 1846–47 snowbound in the Sierra Nevada and some of the members resorted to cannibalism to survive. The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a supernatural reimagining of this true story but the supernatural elements didn’t really add to (or detract from…) the story for me. Learning about the misfortunes of the Donner Party was interesting and creepy in and of itself. It is being marketed as horror, but I think readers of dark historical fiction will be the most suitable audience for this book. It definitely will make you feel lucky to be safely curled up in a warm house as opposed to a threatened, snow-covered wagon.
Touch by Alexi Zentner is a story of family folklore set deep in the rugged Canadian wilderness. We follow Stephen, an Anglican minister, as he recalls his childhood in his hometown of Sawgamet, a remote logging village. He retells the tales of his grandfather Jeannot, the town’s founder, a man who was said to have encountered golden caribou, malevolent wood spirits, and a winter that lasted so long it buried the town in snow until July. Touch is eerie, well-written and very unique…and it feels very appropriate for winter reading while trapped inside.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa (translated to English by Philip Gabriel) is such a charming, bittersweet story – perfect for this time of year. It’s narrated by Nana, a former stray cat who has found a happy home with his human Satoru. For reasons unbeknownst to Nana (and the reader), Satoru is forced to rehome his friend. He and Nana go on a cross-country road trip throughout Japan, visiting Satoru’s childhood friends and trying to determine which one would be best suited for adopting Nana. The reason Satoru needs to give up Nana isn’t much of a surprise. It doesn’t need to be, though -- it’s all about their journey! Nana reminded me of my funny little catdog and I suspect that a lot of animal lovers will feel similarly. This book isn’t wintery per se, but it’s definitely heartwarming.
All of these titles can be reserved from your branch of the County of Lennox & Addington Libraries by visiting www.countylibrary.ca.