Abacus, Anita Shreve, Author, Book review, Fiction, general, literary fiction, Publisher, Setting, USA

‘Light on Snow’ by Anita Shreve


Fiction – paperback; Abacus; 288 pages; 2005.

Twelve-year-old Nicky Dillon and her father are starting life anew in rural New Hampshire following a family tragedy. As both finally settle into familiar patterns and routines, an unexpected “find” one wintry day impinges on the natural order that they have worked so hard to achieve. When they stumble upon a newborn baby girl left abandoned in the woods little do they realise the maelstrom that is about to follow.

In Light On Snow Anita Shreve focuses on her usual themes of love and loss. But she also explores family relationships, the responsibilities we have to one another through thick and thin, the fine line between happiness and despair, and the ties that bind us to people and places. Through the eyes of her female narrator we also get to glimpse the bond between a daughter and her grief-absorbed father, and, in turn, the loss felt by a young girl for her dead mother.

Shreve’s language is always sparse and deceptively simple. But it’s what’s going on between the lines that really hits home. There is plenty of anger, misery, heartache and joy all bound up in just 288 big-print pages. But while it is an emotional book Shreve never resorts to melodrama or sentimentality. Her pitch, her tone, her balanced style is superb.

This is a lovely, heartfelt book. But I would expect nothing less of Shreve who has become one of my firm favourites in recent years.

12 thoughts on “‘Light on Snow’ by Anita Shreve”

  1. I’ve never read any of Shreve’s work but I certainly feel that I’m missing out now! Shreve will be added to my list of authors to check out!


  2. The first Anita Shreve that I read was “Resistance”. Enjoyed it and several others, but I haven’t read her books in quite a while. Will have to check them out again.


  3. Would you say that this one is closer to Sea Glass or Strange Fits of Passion? I find that I either love a Shreve book or hate it, and that makes me hesitant to start one of her books. I thought that Eden Close was a masterpiece, but the Pilot’s Wife was so shallow and poorly written that I felt betrayed by it.


  4. Anna, I’ve not read Resistence. May have to get myself a copy . . .
    Melissa, it’s not really like either one, maybe somewhere in between? I didn’t think Eden Close was that great, compared to some of her other books. I’ve not read The Pilot’s Wife but judging by your comments it doesn’t sound like I’m missing out on anything. I must say, however, that I tend to read Shreve’s work after I’ve read something heavy and “literary”, so I’m not quite sure what that says about her. Light relief, perhaps?


  5. Stay well clear of Light on Snow. All the books (apart from the very bad ‘all he ever wanted’ were supberb. I would highly recommend them but this has to be her worst yet. Sorry! I was an avid Anita Shreve fan but not any more.


  6. Gail, I guess it’s fair to say we have to agree to differ on this one. I’ve not read all of Shreve’s books, but I liked Light On Snow very much, and All He Ever Wanted, while a little stilted to begin with, really grew on me.
    Do you have a favourite Shreve book?


  7. So, here’s the thing, I’m thirteen and my grandmother recommended this book to me before she died saying that the two rules the father gives Nicky are perfect. I can’t find the two rules and I’m dying to know what they are… if you get a minute could you send them to me?


  8. The only Shreve I have read is ‘Body Surfing’ and I thought it was fairly mediocre and havent been tempted to read any more. However I could be persuaded by your review and I must admit to being interested in her new novel ‘Testimony’. The reviews have been positive and suggested for reading discussion groups with one theme being about the terrible power of sex and desire.


  9. Hi Paisley, I read this book almost three years ago, so I’m afraid I can’t remember what the rules were. I no longer have my copy, so I can’t check. I suspect it’s something along the lines of not taking things for granted and living your life to the full…


  10. For some people I think she’s one of those hit-and-miss authors… I have to admit that I have to be in a certain mood to read her books. I quite like reading them after I’ve read something heavy, because they clear my mind a little. They’re not fluffy books, but they are easy to read.


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