Friday, July 25, 2014

Shoveling Snow

Ben and Caroline barely recognize each other any more. Their once solid relationship now broken and beaten by unfathomable events, leaving only a shell of past promise. When pressure cracks the last vestiges of their bond, Ben hastily leaves their Southern California home, pointing the car east to what he hopes is the edge of the Earth. After driving until he can no further, he settles in the small, coastal town of Swintonport, Maine to lose himself in quiet and anonymity, renting the quaint guesthouse of Maggie and her ten-year-old daughter, Smoof. But when tragedy strikes his landlord’s family, Ben is confronted with a sobering truth reminiscent of the one he left behind.

*May Contain Spoilers*

Brett Sills shares a story of searching for a better place in his novel, Shoveling Snow. After receiving life changing news, Ben escapes California and doesn't stop driving until he hits the coast, searching for a better place in life. Smoof is a ten-year-old girl who has lived in Maine for less than a year. She and her mother left Boston after tragedy struck. Now she is searching for a way to make her mother better. Rose is a new teacher, who settled down in Maine after traveling the globe. She's searching for a better place to build to a relationship with the son she left behind. Life and luck have brought these three strangers together but it's up to them to use this happenstance as a guide to move forward. 

Ben was happy and hopeful. He was excited to see where life would take him. As a painter, he paid the bills and exercised his creativity. But after beginning a not-so-bad life with Caroline, things take a turn for the worse.  Now Ben is cynical. He's also rude, introverted, and completely lost. Readers learn right away that something pushed Ben to escape California. Something horrible. And throughout the novel, readers learn what happened to the love he once shared with Caroline through flashbacks. The first connection with Ben is through curiosity and wonder. As the plot continues and his secrets are revealed, empathy and understanding complete the connection. 

Smoof's mother is sick. Maggie spends most of her time in bed, leaving young Smoof to pay the bills and fend for herself. She has an atrocious attitude, is incredibly blunt while using inappropriate language, and secretly she just wants to be a little girl again. The sadness and unfairness of the situation create the initial bond between Smoof and readers. Her behavior is easily looked over as her world crumbles and she reaches out for any help she can get. 

Rose was young when she had her son, George. That doesn't excuse her leaving him and the father to travel the world. Now he lives a few towns away and she has a stack of letters that she has never mailed. Letters that explain, excuse, admit, and blame. But with her student Smoof, maybe Rose can make a difference. She has to try. Readers will first connect with Rose through her desire to help Smoof, but eventually sympathy and understanding will solidify the connection, even if readers don't agree with Rose's past choices. 

The plot of Shoveling Snow follows Ben across the country, from California to Swintonport, Maine. He moves into the guest house of Smoof and her mother. When Smoof gets into trouble, the school calls and they reach Ben. Thus, he is introduced to Rose. As each character battles their own demons, they find solace and understanding in each other. The entire novel is a heart wrenching story of loss, love, and wrong choices. Though the plot moves slowly, taking its time to reveal each detail, the intrigue lies in the mystery that is the past and the hope that could be the future. I liked that each of the characters were real. They had their flaws and Sills wasn't afraid to flaunt them. Though liking the actual characters took time, for one in particular it took the entire novel, Shoveling Snow breathes hope into finding a better place. Even if that place is the life left behind. 

Rating: 4/5 Cups

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