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Glaciers

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3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  2,039 ratings  ·  527 reviews
Isabel is a single, twentysomething thrift-store shopper and collector of remnants, things cast off or left behind by others. Glaciers follows Isabel through a day in her life in which work with damaged books in the basement of a library, unrequited love for the former soldier who fixes her computer, and dreams of the perfect vintage dress move over a backdrop of deteriora ...more
Paperback, 174 pages
Published January 17th 2012 by Tin House Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jamie
Feb 15, 2012 Jamie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of libraries, of Portland, and/or of bearded men
This book has six of my favorite elements of fiction going for it:
1. It is a love story centered on library employees.
2. It is set in a place where I've lived (Portland, OR).
3. It has a bearded man (a decent one).
4. It contains the mention of postcards and love letters.
5. It contains a good party dress. And,
6. It is short.

Ignore the jacket's bad intro and stick it out for at least 30 pages or so, and you'll be rewarded with a well written, understated, and aching little story. You'll also be re
...more
Eve
Have you ever been at a loss for words, and find yourself mindlessly humming a tune that seems to encapsulate every ounce of your sentiments? After finishing this book in one sitting, the only tune that comes to mind is Billy Joel's "She's Got a Way."

She's got a light around her
And ev'rywhere she goes
A million dreams of love surround her ev'rywhere

In a stream of consciousness narrative style, Smith takes us through a day in the life of Isabel, a singleton living in Portland, who repairs damaged
...more
Jenna
Would that I could give this negative stars!

I made the mistake of reading the author's bio before starting the book. Had I not, I might have been able to give her the benefit of the doubt and overlooked (but only momentarily, because they're really hard to miss) the gratuitous stereotypes strewn throughout the first few pages--the protagonist waking up in a small attic apartment in Portland and loving on her cat as she thinks about what vintage options her closet will spew onto her before going
...more
Tom
Years ago, when I was living in another apartment complex, somebody left a small box of books in the laundry room. Most were Harlequin Romance type things--not my cup of whiskey--but there was a yearbook from Fort McClellan, Alabama. It was from the mid-1950's, and it traced a group of young women through Army basic training. While my clothes washed, I paged through the official portraits, those serious, dress uniform studio shots you see when someone gets killed. I saw more candid photos as wel ...more
Jeannine
This book has a very dreamy quality about it and as it covers one day (with flashbacked memories interwoven) of Isabel's life, it's pace is like a stroll rather than a race. And it's quiet.

As someone who is reading a lot on kindle of late, I actually bought this in book-form because of its satisfying size (smaller than most novels). The print is elegant, the paper is high quality and deckle-edged, and I adore how the margins on each page are pretty wide. It's just a visually and texturally satis
...more
Megan Henrich
174 pages of breathtaking wow. This is a book about discarded photos, maps, and postcards, and how the people in the photos and postcards remind us that old people were once young, and we will one day be old. Its beautiful clarity suggests that relationships have changed, but in important ways, they have stayed the same.


Everyone should read this book, I am ever so glad I did.
Traci
There's really not much I can say about the plot of this book, as it's pretty much exactly what the dust jacket states: a day in the life of Isabel. So I'll talk more about my overall impressions of this very slim work, if that's OK with you, dear reader.

The author has a nice way with words. For example, when describing Isabel's parents' impending divorce, the author writes: "When her parents were together, they had little to say to each other. The fissures in their family grew until the most im
...more
Sergsab
Es la nostalgia viva de una ciudad que se va quedando sin verano. La historia de una chica sin prisas porque es consciente del paso del tiempo y de sus consecuencias. Y justo por eso, aunque sea contradictorio, no está dispuesta a correr.

Y es que Isabel ha creado un microuniverso propio con vestidos antiguos, libros viejos, postales del pasado y un gato que camina sobre sus pertenencias. Una realidad propia carente de gravedad en la que pedirle a alguien que te importa que te cuente la versión l
...more
Vishy
I discovered ‘Glaciers’ by Alexis Smith through a friend's review of it. Something about the book and the description of the Tin House edition made me want to read the book. I finished reading it yesterday. Here is what I think.

‘Glaciers’ follows one day in the life of Isabel. Isabel lives in Portland, Oregon. She works in a library and repairs old books. She lives a quiet, contented life. She takes pleasure in the small, simple things – shopping for a nice secondhand dress which is atleast a fe
...more
James
This is a short novel of a twenty-something hipster librarian in Portland who likes a coworker, eats vegetarian, shops at secondhand stores, has artsy gay friends, day dreams about Amsterdam (a city where she's never been) and reminisces about Alaska where she lived as a young girl.

If you were to judge this book by its cover, you would see a dress on the front and assume that this was a girly book. If you did, you would be absolutely correct. I picked this book up from the library upon seeing i
...more
Sue
The plot and pacing are well-reviewed here by others, so I will focus on other aspects. My 18 & 20-year old daughters and I chose it as our first mother-daughter book club selection, and it was the perfect choice. We selected it because 1) it's only 174 pages, and we wanted our first book to be one we could all finish easily in 1-2 sittings, 2) it is in paperback so buying 3 copies wasn't too costly, 3) it's about a young woman who frequents thrift stores looking for treasures, like my girls ...more
Courtney
On a sentence level, Alexis Smith is a decent writer. Unfortunately, those sentences are strung together in a completely irritating, self-indulgent, and anger-inducing manner. The biggest problem, for me, is Smith's aversion to any sort of tension or ambiguity. She literally mentions something quasi-mysterious about Isabel (the protagonist) and explains the backstory of that quirk or attribute in the very next section or passage! I found myself wanting to yell, "It's okay to let the reader specu ...more
Shonna Froebel
This novel captured me right away. Did it help that the main character is a librarian? Maybe.
Isabel was born in Seattle, but her parents moved back to Alaska shortly after she was born to live in the homestead of her father's grandmother, in the country near Soldotna. This is where she spent her early years and learned about being alone, about making do with what you have, and about the meaning of treasure.
Following her parents divorce, her father moved to Portland with her and her older sister,
...more
Meghan
Lovely, delicate, Audrey Tautou of a novel, slim and graceful. A description of Portland:

"A slick fog of a city in the winter, drenched in itself. In the spring and summer: leafy, undulating green, humming with bicycles, breeze-borne seeds whirling by like tiny white galaxies."


Jane
This is such a small, simple story, barely a story at all, and yet it leaves behind such an impression. Beautifully and quietly.

Isabel was in her early twenties. She had grown up in Alaska, but life had brought her to Portland, Oregon. She lived alone and she worked in a room in the library basement, repairing old and damaged books.

When she wasn’t working, she sought out dresses in vintage clothing stores, and vintage postcards in junk shops. She wondered about the places they showed, the people
...more
David Abrams
Sometimes you find the book, and sometimes the book finds you. This was the case for me when, earlier this year, I walked into the Barnes and Noble in Bozeman, Montana "just to get a latte" (i.e., I wasn't on a typical book-buying mission). I was walking toward the cafe when it happened: Glaciers found me. It was like one of those "meet cute" scenes in movies when the pretty brunette dogwalker and the distracted guy with the briefcase, walking in opposite directions, round a corner at the same ...more
Chris Blocker
Delightful. Charming. Delicate. These are the words that first come to mind as I reflect on Glaciers. There's not much substance in these 174 pages, but I was nonetheless happy to have spent the time with them. In many of the novel's short chapters, Alexis M. Smith discusses the small things, the photos and relics Isabelle cherishes; with superb skill, Smith has crafted each chapter with the same vivid detail and want for nostalgia that these photos conjure.

There are some really wonderful senten
...more
Edan
This novel's prose is measured and careful and clear and smooth, and there's a passage at the end that just about took my breath away it was so lovely. I liked the repetition and evolution of metaphor, though the very-very ending, the last page, felt too neat and cute. I read the entire book on a single day, in two shifts, during Bean's naps, and I haven't done that in so long...my goodness, it felt good.

At the same time, this novel is a bit twee for my taste. It's like the Zooey Deschanel of no
...more
Caren
This was recommended to me by my colleague, Rob, who reads lots of adult fiction. It's an unassuming, introspective gem of a book. At just 174 pages and a small format, you can read it in an hour or two. In its pages, you will spend a few days with Isabel, a young woman who works in the basement of a library, repairing damaged books. Having grown up in Alaska, she now lives in Portland, Oregon. She loves vintage clothing and collects old postcards, imagining stories about the sender and recipien ...more
Heather
“Dear L--
Fell asleep in a park. Started to rain. Woke up with my hat full of leaves. You are all I see when I open or close a book.

Yours,
M”

This is one of the messages written on the back of a postcard from Amsterdam that twenty something Isabel finds in a thrift shop. This is just a sample of Alexis M. Smith's lyrical and inspired writing in this short but sweet novel. Isabel's past, present and future are exposed with thoughtful prose and longing. This is not for the reader looking for straigh
...more
Leslie
I think of myself as mostly steering clear of hipster-dom, but this book was really lovely. I sat with a cup of tea and read it in about 3 hours. I identified with Isabel -- her preoccupation with old postcards, her Northern life, her love of books, her attraction to the "woodsman." A quiet, very special book -- I appreciated the book design, the little chapters (loved the chapter headers!), the deckled edges, the French flaps. It felt like something the character would enjoy reading. Spoke to m ...more
Claire
Although called a novel and appearing to be 174 pages, the pages are small and the margins large, which makes it more like a long short story. It also reads more like a short story in its compactness.

I am sure there is more to glacier imagery than I have gotten so far, but I have seen history, mystery, and the slow disappearing. The imagery of glaciers calving appeared twice: on the imagined trip from Seattle back to Alaska and later to describe the parents' relationship: everything important ca
...more
Alan
May 06, 2014 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
short book finished off while I waited for the boilerman and during his visit. I quite enjoyed it: hipster (into old clothes, goes to parties in ex factory lofts, lives in Portland, Oregon) librarian goes through a typical day where she muses on her burgeoning and outside-the-box love for an ex-soldier, injured in the Iraq war, who now works in the library. She has lunch with him, goes to a party in the evening..

Good on incipient, unspoken attraction, longing, postcards and clothes, I still felt
...more
Offuscatio
Ni fu, ni fa (a la excepción de la portada).
Constance
Sometimes writers choose their words with so much care that they lose the passion - and that is how this book felt to me. The language is pretty... and its full of gentle angst... but the characters felt as remote to me as the glaciers of the title.

This is a story of unrequited love. Where is the yearning? Where is the passion?

Give me Robert Desnos, give me Thomas Wyatt, give me the wide Sargasso Sea or mermaids singing each to each. Give me Cyrano gazing at the moon or Pip's passionate speech
...more
Susan
Isabel is a young girl who works in the basement of a library, repairing damaged books. This short novel/novella sees her musing on her childhood, her sister, friend Leo and Spoke, the young man who works alongside her and who was damaged in the war in Iraq. Isabel has a tendency to live in the past - she collects old postcards and weaves stories around the city landscapes and people pictured and the messages written there. She also loves vintage clothes and, of course, the damaged books that sh ...more
Sub_zero
4.5/5

El asombroso debut de Alexis M. Smith deslumbra por estar narrado con un gusto exquisito, gran perspicacia, inteligencia, una sutileza tremenda; delicadeza que en ocasiones termina desembocando en un breve e incontenible estallido de franqueza. La historia de Isabel y de su relación con los demás (su familia, sus entrañables amigos, un amor cohibido y repleto de cicatrices) constituye una metáfora perfecta de lo que pretende transmitir el título del libro: que somos como pedazos de hielo, f
...more
Kate Beeden
They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but I think we are all guilty of being attracted (or otherwise) to books because of them. Glaciers initially stood out to me because of the vintage style cover which led me to read the blurb. I was convinced I would love it. Described as 'a story about longing', Glaciers is Isobel's tale. She works in a library and loves everything vintage, and as I used to work in a library and also love anything with a history I felt Isobel could be me.

A sh
...more
Rachael
If Morrissey were to write a book, it might be GLACIERS. A sense of sadness permeates this compact novel. Isabel is a young woman who possesses a perceptive sense of the past--things that have been lost to time, things forgotten, things that never will be.

The novel follows Isabel through one day. She starts the day by buying a thrift-store postcard, which becomes her touchstone throughout the book. She dwells upon the brief, loving message from M. to L., and meditates upon the postcard's pictur
...more
Jodi Paloni
I've read this brief novel three times and I think about it often in between readings. Few books hold onto me in this way. There are simply too many new books to read to take the time to re-read. What intrigues me is how many worlds we visit within the span of 178 pages without feeling like we've jumped tracks, or even wandered away, from Isabel's story. The novel takes place in a day and in a lifetime, in the past and in the present, and sometimes in her imagined future. The story is both perso ...more
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Alexis M. Smith grew up in Soldotna, Alaska and Seattle, Washington. She attended Mount Holyoke College, Portland State University, and Goddard College, where she earned an MFA in Creative Writing. Her writing has appeared in Tarpaulin Sky and on Powells.com. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her son, two cats, and their beloved view of the St. John’s Bridge.
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“It's a strange product of infatuation, she thinks. To want to tell someone about mundane things. The awareness of another person suddenly sharpens your senses, so that the little things come into focus and the world seems more beautiful and complicated.” 14 likes
“Monotonous and thankless as her job can be sometimes, she cheers at the thought of her coworkers - a dozen of them crammed into their little offices in the basement - all cleverly disguised as harmless geeks, all capable of saving the world if called upon.” 13 likes
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