Snow Angels: A Novel

Snow Angels: A Novel

3.3 12
by Stewart O'Nan
     
 

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Now a major motion picture from Warner Independent starring Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale

In Stewart O'Nan's Snow Angels, Arthur Parkinson is fourteen during the dreary winter of 1974. Enduring the pain of his parents' divorce, his world is shattered when his beloved former babysitter, Annie, falls victim to a tragic series of events. The

Overview

Now a major motion picture from Warner Independent starring Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale

In Stewart O'Nan's Snow Angels, Arthur Parkinson is fourteen during the dreary winter of 1974. Enduring the pain of his parents' divorce, his world is shattered when his beloved former babysitter, Annie, falls victim to a tragic series of events. The interlinking stories of Arthur's unraveling family, and of Annie's fate, form the backdrop of this intimate tale about the price of love and belonging, told in a spare, translucent, and unexpectedly tender voice.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The lives of two small-town Pennsylvania families connected by tragedy are related in this assured and affecting first novel by the author of the short-story collection, In the Walled City. Narrator Arthur Parkinson has been haunted by the murder of his former baby sitter, Annie Marchand, which occured when he was in high school. As he relates the circumstances leading to Annie's death-the culmination of a string of rash and heedless acts that included leaving her husband, engaging in an affair with her best friend's boyfriend and proving negligent in the care of her young daughter-Artie also chronicles his own parents' acrimonious separation, which occurred during those same dreary months of 1974. Annie's decision not to reconcile with her wimpish husband, Glenn, who loves her devotedly and doggedly, is paralleled by Artie's mother's decision to divorce his father, the beginning of the family's downward economic slide. Both sets of adults behave like adolescents, and the effects on their children are grave and irrevocable. O'Nan is a skilled writer who views the lives of his working-class characters with unsentimental compassion; he understands how they are entrapped by social background and stark economics as well as their own personal inadequacies-in Annie's case, her impetuous reactions and fierce temper. The novel's elegiac tone is perfectly controlled, and angst and the lingo of male adolescence are rendered with wry fidelity. But O'Nan's triumph is Annie; in spite of her faults, readers will empathize as she makes the mistakes that will bring her heartbreaking life to an end. Author tour. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Arty Parkinson, the protagonist of this fine first novel, returns one Christmas to his hometown of Butler, Pennsylvania, to confront his haunting past-specifically, the winter of 1974, when he turned 15 and two terrible things happened: his family fell apart, and Annie Marchand, the young neighbor who had once been his baby-sitter, was murdered. O'Nan (In the Walled City, Univ. of Pittsburgh, 1993) weaves together these seemingly disparate small-town tragedies-one narrated in the first person, the other in the third-with consummate skill, seamlessly shifting the focus among characters he wishes to make the reader care about. This winner of the 1993 Pirates Alley William Faulkner Prize for the Novel is recommended for fiction collections.-David Sowd, formerly with Stark Cty. District Lib., Canton, Ohio
Donna Seaman
First-time novelist O'Nan has already won awards for his short stories as well as for this beautifully composed and deeply felt tale of domestic tragedy. "Snow Angels" follows the disintegration of two households in a small western Pennsylvania town in the dead of winter. One is Arthur Parkinson's. Arthur, small yet wise for his 15 years, is coping with his parents' divorce and the loss of their home. While he picks his way through the emotional land mine his parents have created, Arthur falls in love, learns to drive, and, strangely enough, gets drawn into the wreck of his former baby-sitter's life. As a child, Arthur adored Annie for her long red hair and joshing indulgences. Now he can't believe the sickening irony of having to be the one person out of dozens of searchers who finds the body of her drowned three-year-old daughter. Arthur's narrative alternates with the sad tale of Annie's busted marriage, the mental breakdown of her estranged husband, and her inevitable murder. O'Nan tells this sorrowful tale without a shred of sensationalism, ushering us quietly into the squeezed hearts of his characters, respectful of their traumas and awed by how limited our choices in life truly are.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429977937
Publisher:
Picador
Publication date:
10/01/2003
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
295,315
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

Snow Angels


By Stewart O'Nan

Picador

Copyright © 1994 Stewart O'Nan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7793-7


CHAPTER 1

I was in the band the fall my father left, in the second row of trombones, in the middle because I was a freshman. Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school we practiced in the music room, but on Fridays Mr. Chervenick led us outside in our down jackets and tasseled Steeler hats and shitkicker boots and across the footbridge that spanned the interstate to the middle school soccer field, where, like the football team itself, we ran square-outs and curls and a maneuver Mr. Chervenick called an oblique, with which, for the finale of every halftime show, we described — all 122 of us — a whirling funnel approximating our school's nickname, the Golden Tornadoes. We never got it quite right, though every Friday Mr. Chervenick tried to inspire us, scampering across the frost-slicked grass in his chocolate leather coat and kid gloves and cordovans to herd us into formation until — in utter disgust — instead of steering a wayward oboe back on course he would simply arrest him or her by the shoulders so the entire block of winds had to stop, and then the brass and the drums, and we would have to start all over again.

Late one Friday in mid-December we were working on the tornado. Dusk had begun to fill the air and it was snowing, but Saturday was our last home game and Mr. Chervenick persuaded the janitor to turn on the lights. An inch or so had fallen during the day and it was impossible to see the lines. "Wrong, wrong, wrong!" Mr. Chervenick shouted. When the girl pulling the xylophone slipped and twisted her ankle, he blew his whistle three times, which meant we were to line up for a final chastising pep talk before we could leave. He climbed the three steps of his little wheeled podium and let us stand in silence for a minute so we would realize how disappointed he was. Snow piled up in our hair. Beyond the sea of flakes drifting through the high lights came the ringing drone of a tractortrailer's chains on the interstate. In the valley, muffled by a ceiling of clouds, lay the burning grid of Butler, the black river, the busy mills.

"We have all worked very hard this year," he said, and paused, breathing steam, as if speaking to a stadium, waiting for his words to circle. Beside me Warren Hardesty muttered something — a joke, a rejoinder — and then we heard what I immediately identified (from my own .22, my father's Mossberg, the nightly news from Vietnam) as gunshots. A clump of them. They crackled like fireworks, echoed over the bare trees on the other side of the highway. They were close. The band turned to them in unison, something Mr. Chervenick could never get us to do.

It had just turned deer season, and we all knew the power company had a clearcut through there behind the water tower, as well as the rights to the few overgrown fields carved out of the woods, but all of us with guns knew the land was posted, too close to the road and the school. And the time wasn't right for hunting, the light was gone. We looked to each other as if to confirm our surprise.

Mr. Chervenick seemed to understand too, though he was not the hunting type. He praised our dedication, excused us and, instead of leading us back over the footbridge, headed across the empty parking lot for the lit doors of the middle school and stood there rapping on the glass until the janitor let him in.

What we had heard was someone being murdered, someone most of us knew, if dimly. Her name was Annie Marchand, and I knew her first — years before this — merely as Annie the babysitter. Her name at that time was Annie Van Dorn. She lived, then, with her parents, the next house down the road from us. We were not strictly neighbors; between our new hi-ranch and their boxy Greek Revival stretched a mile-wide field Mr. Van Dorn leased to an old farmer named Carlsen. Yet whenever my mother and father decided to escape for dinner out or to a movie, Mr. Van Dorn's truck would pull up at the bottom of our drive and out would pop Annie with her purse and her schoolbooks, ready to whip me at Candyland and train my sister Astrid to draw on eyeliner.

I suspect that at first Astrid was more in love with her than I was. At thirteen Annie was taller than our mother, and strikingly thin. Her red hair came to her waist; her fingers were covered with rings from admirers. She smelled of the Van Dorns' oil furnace and Secret deodorant and Juicy Fruit gum, and she made pizza and sang "Ruby Tuesday" and, for me, "Mr. Big Stuff." Our daydreams, I admit, included her becoming our mother. Once we had an evening-long argument with her over the word "milk," which we — like most Western Pennsylvanians — pronounced "melk," but it did nothing to mediate our crush on her. This went on for years, like a grand affair. She left us only when my sister was old enough to watch me, and by then Annie was out of school and working, and sometimes my mother could not get her for Fridays anyway. We'd see her driving by in her brother Raymond's Maverick or riding behind her boyfriend on his Honda, but rarely. For a few years she became — by her proximity and absence — distant and mysterious. My bedroom faced the field, and at night I studied the yellow eyes of her house and pictured her in her darkened room looking back at me.

Since then she had moved out like her brothers and married and had a girl of her own, but things had not gone well for her. That spring, she and her husband had separated. Mrs. Van Dorn, now widowed, lived alone in the family house. My mother looked in on her every day after work, and often that fall Annie was there, in the kitchen, the two of them commiserating bitterly over coffee. The worst, they must have figured, had already happened.

According to my mother, Mrs. Van Dorn wanted Annie to move back in with her. Annie and her daughter were living alone above town by the high school. Her house was the only one on Turkey Hill Road, a wooded cul-de-sac that ended at the base of the county water tower. The road had once crossed Old Route 2 but when they laid the interstate the government bought up all the houses and blocked it off on both sides. Beyond a caution-striped guardrail the cracked blacktop wandered off into scrub. The other, unluckier houses were still back there, overgrown, shingles mossy; we used to party in them. Mrs. Van Dorn was worried about Annie's safety, but she and Annie — again, according to my mother — didn't get along well enough to live together, and Annie stayed where she was.

At the hearing her nearest neighbor, Clare Hardesty, said she'd heard the shots and gone to her window. The road was empty, the spotlit water tower half lost in the snow. Annie's lights were on; a colored string blinked around a tree. Clare didn't see any cars that didn't belong, meaning, she explained, the boyfriend's. The two had recently broken up; she would have noticed. When she called, no one answered, so she put on her boots and a wrap and walked down the road. The front door was open, the light spilling out onto the snow. (Here she was asked about footprints, a single broken pane, glass on the bathroom carpet; she didn't know, she didn't know.) Though the house was empty, something had happened inside. She tried the phone, then ran back to her place to call the state police.

And do you remember noticing, the transcript reads, if the back door was open at this time?

I don't remember, Clare Hardesty answers.

I know — and everyone I grew up with knows — that the back door was open and that a pair of tracks led across the backyard and into the woods. We followed them at first in our imaginations, those snowy nights alone in bed (their breath, her bare feet sinking in), and then when the brave had made their pilgrimage, at lunch we hauled on our boots and crossed the interstate and slid down the hill to the spot we as a whole had chosen, just to one side of the board bridge over the spillway of Marsden's Pond. Both the pond and the brook were iced over; only the spillway made noise. The more romantic of the tough girls had placed roses in a vase made of snow, every day a fresh one among the dead. Someone had tramped out a cross, which by January was neatly lined with beer cans. To one side sat a pile of lipsticked cigarette butts and burnt matches like an offering. We stood there, alone or in groups, looking back over the tangle of bare trees beyond which rose the water tower, and below it, invisible, her house. We passed a joint or bowl around and talked about how she was still there in the trees and the creek because the soul never dies. Someone always had gum, and I remember chewing and feeling my jaw harden and thinking that it was true, that I could feel Annie there. But at other times there was nothing, just munchies and a giddiness I would later be ashamed of.

March, cutting class, Warren Hardesty and I walked from the spot all the way to the edge of her backyard, retracing her last steps. It was farther than we thought, and we had to stop to stoke up a roach I'd saved. Warren had some blackberry brandy in a plastic Girl Scout canteen. It was Monday, around third period. The house was for sale but no one was going to buy it. The paint was peeling, the screenporch still full of her junk — lawnchairs, rabbit cages, deflated balls. Warren dared me to cross the lawn and just touch the house.

"You," I said.

"Shit, I live right up the road."

"So?" I said.

We did it together, leaving two sets of bootprints in the perfect snow. We each placed a gloved hand on the porch door. Through a casement window I could see a corner of a rug, and a chair, and light coming through the blue curtains of the front.

"Let's go inside," Warren said.

"Fuck you," I said.

"Pussy," he said, as if there were someone else there judging us.

I dropped my glove to the door handle.

"I'll be right behind you," Warren promised.

The spring protested, rang as if strummed. I stuck my head in. A hose lay coiled beneath a fraying chaise like a snake; above hung a pair of clotheslines, a few grayed pins still clinging. I thought of Annie with a basket of clothes and wondered if she had a dryer or even a washer, because at our old house we — my mother, that is — had always had both, and now we had neither.

Warren pushed me from behind and I fell across a picnic-table bench, knocking over a stack of boxes. One came open and out rolled a yellow mailbox for the Butler Eagle. I screamed as if it were a head. Warren was running for the woods, laughing his ass off. I scrambled up and went after him, shouting, "Fucker!"

Later we went back, at first partying at the picnic table and then, when we were more comfortable, in the house itself. We sat on the couch in the chilly living room, passing the canteen, toasting Annie. We never took anyone else and we were careful to clean up after ourselves. We pledged never to take or even move anything. The Prime Directive, Warren called it.

That was me when I was fourteen and I'm not proud of how we treated her place, but now I think I went there because even then I knew I was closer to Annie than all those girls with their roses and the people who went to her funeral. We had history. Stoned, I tried to picture her life there, and her death, though back then that was impossible for me to see clearly. I tried, I suppose, to say goodbye. The house hasn't changed much since then. Eventually someone less reverent broke in and set a fire, and the police boarded it up. It's still there, burnt furniture and all. I've been by.

My mother and I never really talked about what happened. We shared a few words of shocked consolation, and there was an air of mourning about the house, but while the papers were full of accounts, we did not discuss the killing itself, how and why it came about. I now see that she (and myself, though I did not acknowledge it at the time) was going through her own slow tragedy and needed her grief for both herself and me. She still called my father to make sure he would pick me up every other Saturday, but they did not talk beyond money and the logistics of visitation.

We were all seeing a psychiatrist associated with our church, separately, on different days of the week. I remember that Dr. Brady and I mostly discussed hockey, though every session he would ask bluntly how I was doing at home, in school, with the band, with my mother, my father.

"Okay," I told him.

When my mother picked me up, invariably she asked, "Do you think it's helping?"

"I guess," I said.

Astrid, in Tennstaedt, West Germany, with the Air Force, called once a month to see how we were doing and to check up on her bank statement. Her squadron was involved in reconnaissance; "black work," she called it, though we all knew it was just high-altitude photography of Russia. She was putting aside half her pay, wiring it to the Mellon Bank in Butler, and every time my mother drove me in to see Dr. Brady and we passed the branch, I thought of Astrid's money inside, warm as a nest and growing. I thought, desperately, that when her tour was up we could live together in town above the Woolworth's and I could work in the record department. On the phone we talked like hostages. She asked long, impossible questions ("Why do you think they're not talking if they're going to the same guy, and why do you go by yourself?") that under my mother's watchful smile I could only answer with "I don't know." My mother waited until after Christmas to tell her about Annie, and when I got on the phone, Astrid was crying and angry, as if I should have prevented it.

"It's just all going to shit back there, isn't it?"

"I don't know," I said. "I guess."

All my father would say about the killing was that it was a bad business all the way around. He had worked — if briefly — alongside Annie's estranged husband, Glenn. I did not see my father much that winter, and when I did we spoke carefully, like survivors. He would not say a word against or for Glenn Marchand. There was more to it than we had a right to know was my father's position. It was not our affair. To me this was as good as him admitting that he knew the whole story. I wanted him to tell me everything because my mother hadn't and I needed to know. I knew only the rumors and what I could infer from the newspaper, while he had known both parties involved. He did not want to talk about it and I am glad he didn't, for if he had let me know then how he saw the whole thing I probably would not have understood it any more than I understood why he had left my mother.


Once a year I go back to Western Pennsylvania, for Christmas. This year Astrid and I have booked our flights into Pittsburgh so we can rent a car and drive up to Butler together, and here we are, cruising through the snowy country in our big Century. I am comfortably divorced; she is still single. Neither of us mentions these facts. We'll hear them enough when we get home. Over the years it has become a bit of a ritual for me to drive by our old house and stop to contemplate it. It's a form of stalling, of warming up for the hard part.

"Can we?" I say.

Astrid says nothing, but reluctantly slows and pulls onto the cinder berm. All fall we've talked on the phone, and she knows I need a little indulgence.

We sit in the warmth of the car with the radio off. The shrubs have grown up and filled out around the foundation, but the house itself hasn't changed much. Astrid thinks it's the siding. On the roof stands a faded Santa, waving. The new people are doing all right. In the last year they've added an aboveground pool; it sleeps under a blue tarpaulin. I've seen their boy shooting hoops on the drive, and once a daughter shoveling. But what about the inside, is it any different — the tree, the smell of turkey all afternoon while on TV the football games change? We sit in the car and I imagine our father in the basement rec room, lying on the couch under an afghan, his ashtray on the shag rug. A razor commercial jangles, the baseboard heaters clink. The Steelers are beating someone but he is asleep, and our mother shoos us upstairs.

"Seen enough?" Astrid asks, and when I don't answer shifts into drive. I will never stop being the baby; all the decisions are hers.

Carlsen's field is mud and stubble. Every Christmas our mother marvels that he is still alive, guiding his glass-cabbed Deere over the furrows. A mile off, the Van Dorns' rises.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Snow Angels by Stewart O'Nan. Copyright © 1994 Stewart O'Nan. Excerpted by permission of Picador.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Stewart O’Nan's novels include Last Night at the Lobster, The Night Country, and Prayer for the Dying. His novel Snow Angels was the basis of the 2007 film of the same name. He is also the author of the nonfiction books The Circus Fire and, with Stephen King, the bestselling Faithful. Granta named him one of the Twenty Best Young American Novelists. He lives in Pittsburgh.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Avon, CT
Date of Birth:
February 4, 1961
Place of Birth:
Pittsburgh, PA
Education:
B.S., Aerospace Engineering, Boston University, 1983; M.F.A., Cornell University, 1992
Website:
http://www.stewart-onan.com

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Snow Angels 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
3tzmom More than 1 year ago
O'Nan is a gifted writer that can make any story enjoyable. He interweaves two families that are in the process of divorce. He begins with the ending of the story and uses the rest of the book to lead up to the event with few surprises along the way. It's not an extremely thrilling book, but he just has a writing style that I enjoy reading. I highly recommend his book A Prayer for the Dying (one of the my Favorite books).
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be absolutely amazing. I could not put it down. It's so sad and depressing and yet it also has a lot of beauty to it. I don't know else how to describe how amazing this was. This book is amazing to me on so many levels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
O'Nan is a deceptively simple writer. His words resound with clarity and depth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JosieKramer More than 1 year ago
My first impression of this book was that it was meant for 6th graders. The font size used was huge and made it appear as if it had 10 words per page. Once I started reading it, I realized I wasn't too far off. While the subject matter is too much of a downer for a nine year old, the way the story was written would have made them feel right at home. The sentences were choppy and had no weight to them. There were so many missed opportunities that could have made this book a knockout, but were simply washed away. The deaths of several characters were described in at most 2 simply written paragraphs. I was left with a feeling of wanting more (or really SOMETHING) and getting handed simply a statement. You don't get a sense of love or hatred for any of the characters. While a lot of situations were sad, they were just that. Sad. Then you moved on. You didn't relate to the characters just the situation, which when it comes to reading a 300 page book, would help. I was disappointed by this book as it was recommended by someone who reads a massive amount of books. This book will definitely be sold at the next yard sale. No reason to keep it.
debbook More than 1 year ago
I have had this book on my shelves for awhile, recommended to me by a fellow B&N poster. This is my first O'Nan book and I really enjoyed it. It is told mostly through Arthur,a 14 year old boy who is trying to get by despite his parents' divorce and the changes that ensue. The parallel story line is the events leading up to the death of Annie, Arthur's former babysitter. Annie is separated from her recently suicidal husband and trying to raise her young daughter. There is a lot to like and a lot to criticize about Annie. The story is heart-breaking but unsentimental, a straight-forward plot. My favorite passage from the novel: I heard the door open and my mother outside, her voice tiny and stretched, screaming at him as he made for the Nova. I sat on the edge of my bed, calmly parting my hair. Like everything else that happened this winter, I was not going to let this stop me from being happy. O'Nan is an excellent writer and I can't wait to read some of his others, especially Last Night at the Lobster and Songs for the Missing. Snow Angels is also a movie with Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell. It's in my Netflix queue and I hope it is true to the book.
CindiMI More than 1 year ago
This is the 2nd book I've read by Stewart O'Nan. I love how he writes because I feel like I know his characters. I knew Arthur and his parents (my parents divorced when I turned 20) and I knew Annie. This is a heart-breaking story but it is hopeful, too. Life goes on and experience shapes a person. I could not put this book down. I'm returning it to the library today and will pick up another of Mr. O'Nan's books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DeafPoetic More than 1 year ago
I loved this story. Though the prose was very simple and not very stimulating intelligently it still was very deep and among most things very true. The characters in the story are people that we know in our ordinary day to day lives and how they act without the concern for the feelings of others. The fact that we all have at some point in our lives experienced the pain that Arthur is going through at the blossom of puberty and that feeling of growing detachment from family and the world as a whole makes this story very real to anyone who reads it.
Simple yet very touching.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a story that links two families, almost indirectly, by a tragedy that affects them in enormously painful ways. Set in a rural community in Pennsylvania in mid-1970, the story is built around the lives of the two main characters, Arthur Parkinson and Annie Marchand. Arthur, who is the narrator of the chapters about his part in this heartbreaking story, is a 14-year-old high school student who is dealing with his family¿s slowly decaying break up. At the same time, a narrator who gives us the picture of her dismal, failing marriage and careless lifestyle, tells Annie¿s chaotic story. Arthur and his older sister Astrid are the children of parents who are selfish and immature, putting their needs ahead of their children. As Arthur¿s mother decides to divorce his father, the life Arthur knows begins to change. Moving and their resulting socio-economic situation only add to Arthur¿s problems as he tries to confront his involvement in Annie¿s story. Adolescence, confusion, fear, and torment all play into Arthur¿s mental state during this time. The events in his life during these years are only overshadowed by the awful part that involves Arthur in Annie¿s heartbreaking calamity. Whereas Annie Marchand was once the delightful babysitter to Arthur and Astrid, she soon inadvertently becomes the center of many of the problems for this family and especially Arthur. Annie, meanwhile, grows up to marry Glenn Marchand and her imprudent and neglectful acts soon result in her leaving Glenn, despite how it may effect her daughter, Tara. Although Glenn tries in his own somewhat feeble way to reconcile with Annie, who he loves, she rejects his efforts. In fact, she goes as far as to having an affair with Brock who is one of her own friend¿s boyfriends. Annie, proves to be even more selfish than one can imagine to the point that she neglects even Tara. This results in tragic consequences that lead to the beginning, and the end, of this tormented tale. Annie¿s future is one that she herself brings about through her actions. And yet, O¿Nan¿s treatment of Annie¿s character can still leave one with sympathy for her. In the end, we find Arthur questioning still what really has gone on and how things happened. Arthur feels that perhaps if he concentrates on the details of the past few years that are described in the book, that perhaps he ¿will finally understand everything that happened back then¿ and yet he goes on to say that he knows he can¿t. This leaves us with great sympathy for Arthur who turns out to be somewhat of an innocent bystander to all that goes on around him due in fact to all the other characters¿ actions. Snow Angels by Stewart O¿Nan is one of his earliest works. Recently having previewed his soon to be released Songs for the Missing and going back to read Last Night at the Lobster, I wasn¿t sure what to expect with Snow Angels. I was pleasantly relieved to find that Snow Angels fell in line with my opinion of O¿Nan as based on Last Night at the Lobster, instead of the extremely disappointing Songs for the Missing. With Snow Angels Stewart O¿Nan gives us the same working class characterizations that made me love his ¿Lobster¿ book and allows the reader to relate to the story and want to finish reading it without stopping. This is a story that will stay with the reader for a long time, as it will with me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a story that links two families, almost indirectly, by a tragedy that affects them in enormously painful ways. Set in a rural community in Pennsylvania in mid-1970, the story is built around the lives of the two main characters, Arthur Parkinson and Annie Marchand. Arthur, who is the narrator of the chapters about his part in this heartbreaking story, is a 14-year-old high school student who is dealing with his family¿s slowly decaying break up. At the same time, a narrator who gives us the picture of her dismal, failing marriage and careless lifestyle, tells Annie¿s chaotic story. Arthur and his older sister Astrid are the children of parents who are selfish and immature, putting their needs ahead of their children. As Arthur¿s mother decides to divorce his father, the life Arthur knows begins to change. Moving and their resulting socio-economic situation only add to Arthur¿s problems as he tries to confront his involvement in Annie¿s story. Adolescence, confusion, fear, and torment all play into Arthur¿s mental state during this time. The events in his life during these years are only overshadowed by the awful part that involves Arthur in Annie¿s heartbreaking calamity. Whereas Annie Marchand was once the delightful babysitter to Arthur and Astrid, she soon inadvertently becomes the center of many of the problems for this family and especially Arthur. Annie, meanwhile, grows up to marry Glenn Marchand and her imprudent and neglectful acts soon result in her leaving Glenn, despite how it may effect her daughter, Tara. Although Glenn tries in his own somewhat feeble way to reconcile with Annie, who he loves, she rejects his efforts. In fact, she goes as far as to having an affair with Brock who is one of her own friend¿s boyfriends. Annie, proves to be even more selfish than one can imagine to the point that she neglects even Tara. This results in tragic consequences that lead to the beginning, and the end, of this tormented tale. Annie¿s future is one that she herself brings about through her actions. And yet, O¿Nan¿s treatment of Annie¿s character can still leave one with sympathy for her. In the end, we find Arthur questioning still what really has gone on and how things happened. Arthur feels that perhaps if he concentrates on the details of the past few years that are described in the book, that perhaps he ¿will finally understand everything that happened back then¿ and yet he goes on to say that he knows he can¿t. This leaves us with great sympathy for Arthur who turns out to be somewhat of an innocent bystander to all that goes on around him due in fact to all the other characters¿ actions. Snow Angels by Stewart O¿Nan is one of his earliest works. Recently having previewed his soon to be released Songs for the Missing and going back to read Last Night at the Lobster, I wasn¿t sure what to expect with Snow Angels. I was pleasantly relieved to find that Snow Angels fell in line with my opinion of O¿Nan as based on Last Night at the Lobster, instead of the extremely disappointing Songs for the Missing. With Snow Angels Stewart O¿Nan gives us the same working class characterizations that made me love his ¿Lobster¿ book and allows the reader to relate to the story and want to finish reading it without stopping. This is a story that will stay with the reader for a long time, as it will with me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Snow Angels is a book I picked up on a whim at the local Barnes and Noble. It took me almost three weeks to get through it. The prose was extremely hard to follow at times. Also the story was just down right depressing. In my opinion I read books to learn something, escape the real world for awhile and maybe be given a glimmer of hope for humanity. This book did nothing for me and life is too short to waste on bad prose and bad story lines.
Guest More than 1 year ago
O'NAN WRITES SO YOU FEEL YOU ARE RIGHT THERE. THE YOUNG BOY, HIS FAMILY, HIS FORMER BABY-SITTER - THE SCHOOL BUS TRIPS - ARE SO REAL. THE STORY GAVE ME A CLEARER UNDERSTANDING OF HOW OTHERS LIVE AND COPE.