Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Left Me Wanting More

When I was a teenager, I enjoyed reading these enormous historical novels that covered several generations in the same family, sometimes spread over a century or more. So I was attracted to The Snows by Sharelle Byars Moranville because it's about four generations of the same family. It begins during the Depression and ends in 2006.

Each of the four members of the Snow family are caught during a pivotal moment when they are sixteen. These moments are pivotal to them, personally, but definitely relate very strongly to the period in which they live, too.

I had a bizarre experience reading this book. At first, I got kind of excited because I thought I was really going to like it. Each Snow speaks in the first person, though, and I found that disappointing because I felt they sounded a bit too much alike. Then I became intrigued again. Each character's section seems a little weak at first. The author is trying to cover a lot of ground in not much space, so there's a bit too much telling for my taste. However, each section also has a strength. Jim's depressing road trip...Cathy's stay at a place I won't describe so as not to give anything away...Jill's experience with campus activism... Those settings really draw a reader in.

These days I often read books that are far longer than they need to be with lots of drawn out scenes and repetitive information. The Snows is just the opposite. I wanted to know so much more about these people. Though we do get to know some of the young characters in the earlier sections as adults in later sections, I still wanted to know much more about them. I wanted to know more about many of the secondary characters, too, especially many of the women. I felt a little feminist history-thing going on here, which I liked. Was Jill's mother depressed because of the lack of opportunities for her in the 50s and 60s? And what was with Jim's mother who read to the point of neglecting her family? (Who hasn't done that?) Both these women ended up with a female descendant who was a highly successful professional woman.

Hey, and what was with Jim? He grew up with what looked like a mildly depressed, but functioning, father and then went out and married a depressed, and barely functioning, woman.

Of course, it may be that I wanted to know about adult characters and expanding on them would have meant that this wouldn't be a YA book. Still, I think Byars Moranville should treat The Snows as some kind of arty, literary exercise and rewrite this book, expanding on everyone, showing us everything about everybody. What would her storyline be? Well, something relating to the evolution of the Snow women and their connection to their individual time periods would be nice. And she should also give us more of the brother, father, and grandfather who wanted to take care of them all.

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