Glaciers

Posted on 02 July 2013

When I finished reading Glaciers by Alexis Smith, I thought, “We can write books like this?”

Actually, it was more like: “We can write books like this and get them published?”

It’s reassuring to know that there’s still a place out there for lovely, lyrical little novels some might call “quiet” but that actually pack a powerful emotional punch. Glaciers is a slim and deceptively simple novel about Isabel, a young woman who loves all things with a history, but especially old postcards, letters, cards, and books. It’s a novel about uncovering the past, finding new life in the old, holding on, and letting go. I absolutely adored it.

And yes, some of the descriptions of Isabel’s childhood home of Alaska made me think of Iceland. Like this one:

Like other great creatures before them, the glaciers were dying, and their death, so distant and unimaginable, was a spectacle not to be missed. The ferry slowed where a massive glacier met the ocean; a long, low cracking announced the rupture of ice from glacier; then came the slow lunge of the ice into the sea. This is calving — when part of a glacier breaks free and becomes an iceberg — a kind of birth. The calving sent waves, rocking the ferry. Hands gripped railings and feet separated on gridded steel. There were shouts of appreciation and fear, but nothing like grief, not even ordinary sadness.

The novel is so short that I finished it in a single sitting on my flight home from Vegas last week. I was tired and had some manuscripts to critique, so I kept telling myself, “one more chapter and then I’ll take a break.” That break never came.

I owe big thanks to David Abrams for so thoroughly championing this book in the last year and therefore pushing it to the top of my to-read list. In his review, Abrams writes: “The book slips seamlessly between the present and Isabel’s childhood growing up in Alaska and Portland with her mother, father and sister Agnes. Written in sentences as simple and delicate and beautiful as a single strand of a spider’s silk, Glaciers reads like a literal dream. We move through the pages quickly, as if floating just above the words, and it’s over before we want it to be. I could have stayed in Isabel’s world for a long, long time.”

It also didn’t escape me that while Isabel loves old postcards and letters, I read this novel in electronic form on my Nook. Aside from waiting so long to read Glaciers, that’s my only regret — this is one book I’d like to appreciate the old-fashioned way.

But, of course, everything changes. I’ll leave you with the advice a young Isabel receives from her mother:

Isabel, she said seriously, believe me when I tell you that everything is temporary. Everything. There’s not a thing in the world that will not change, including you.

What’s changing in your world?


4 responses to Glaciers

  • Downith says:

    Oooh! Sounds good.

    And I hear you on the e-reader. There are definitely books I’ve read on my Kindle that I wish I’d read “authentically.”

  • Sarah W says:

    I think I know what I’ll be requesting at the library tomorrow.

    My children change every day and I ask myself, “How can they do that?” And then I think, I did that,once, and maybe the real question is, “How can I do that again?”

  • Averil says:

    Yesterday I received my copy of Stephen King’s Joyland, which is only available in print. It has the most delightful pulp-art cover, really splashy, with lots of vintage detail throughout. There are some books that are best appreciated the old-fashioned way, and this is one of them.

  • Teri says:

    I’m so excited to read this! Ordering it right this instant —- in paper form. I’m still holding out on the e-readers, though not sure how long I’ll last.

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