Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Light on Snow- Anita Shreve

Light on Snow- Anita Shreve

This a compelling story of a young girl and her father. Nicky is 12 and living with her Dad in backwoods New Hampshire. Two years earlier Robert Dillon was a successful architect, with a beautiful wife and two lovely daughters. Then just before Christmas, his wife and toddler daughter were killed in a tragic car accident. In his grief, Robert packs up Nicky and travels north. They stumble upon a small town and try to assemble a new life. Robert begins making and selling furniture. Nicky is struggling to make sense of the loss of her mom and sister and the abandonment of her old life. She never really gets to express her sadness and grief to her father.
Then one day on a cold winter walk, they hear a cry in the woods. They find a newborn girl wrapped in a bloody sleeping bag, left to die. They rescue the baby and save her life. Nicky can’t understand why someone would do this.
Two weeks later a young woman appears at their door. She is the mother of the baby. A fierce winter storm keeps her at the house for several days. Nicky desperate for emotional love, fantasizes about her staying and living with them. Her dad wants her to turn herself in to the police but doesn’t have the heart to do it himself. Over the next few snowbound days, they learn more about each other and about themselves.
Anita Shreve is a wonderful writer. Her words are beautifully descriptive and heartfelt. It was a wonderful read from beginning to end. However, I would have loved to have some sort of peek into the future life of the characters, to see how their lives turned out. This is a great title for a book club group.

Reading Guide- From
1. Nicky notes near the beginning of Light on Snow that her father actively avoids civilization, yet when they find Baby Doris he quickly breaks out of his self-imposed exile to help save the abandoned infant. Why do you think he chooses to become so involved in this situation?

2. Discuss the relationship between Nicky and her father as the novel opens. In what ways is their relationship unique? In what ways does it reflect or subvert the traditional roles of parent and child?

3. The December days through which Light on Snow unfolds represent a rite of passage for Nicky in many ways. How is she ultimately influenced by what she experiences in these weeks? What does Nicky draw from her relationships with the various adults around her? Do you think they learn something from her as well?

4. A great deal about Robert Dillon's pre–New Hampshire life as a successful architect in New York City is revealed when his former colleagues visit his new home. Discuss the distinctions that the author draws between the Dillons' past and their present life.

5. Several scenes in the novel are focused on the preparation and consumption of food. Discuss the significance of these meals to the story.

6. How does Charlotte's arrival affect Robert and Nicky's interaction with the rest of the world?

7. After meeting Charlotte, Nicky's father struggles with the decision of whether or not to turn her in. Does he make a good choice in the end? Why?

8. Nicky's argument with her father after Charlotte leaves becomes a turning point in the novel. What does Nicky discover about herself in this passage? What does she learn about her father?

9. When Nicky overhears Charlotte's confession, she notes, "I want to believe that my father and I were meant to stumble across Baby Doris and give her a chance at life. But I'm not sure. I think about accidents and intersecting footsteps" (page 240). What does she mean by this observation? What role does fate or chance play in Light on Snow? Offer some examples.

10. The morning after the snowstorm, Nicky and Charlotte move a table into the kitchen. What does this action suggest? What exactly has changed?

11. "I know, as one does at twelve or eleven or ten, that I have witnessed something I shouldn't have witnessed, seen something I shouldn't have seen" (page 198). What has Nicky witnessed in this passage and how does what she has seen affect her?

12. Discuss the relationship between Nicky and Charlotte. How does each influence the other?

13. Do you think Charlotte's behavior with respect to her newborn child is justified? Do you think she takes appropriate responsibility for her actions in the end?

14. Although the novel's action takes place when Nicky is twelve years old, she is thirty when she recounts it. Why do you think the author has chosen to have a grown-up Nicky tell the story?

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