Tripp's Reviews > Snow Angels

Snow Angels by Stewart O'Nan
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Oct 16, 13

bookshelves: third-person, present-tense, past-tense, omniscient, multiple-pov, first-person, multiple-tenses
Read from October 09 to 12, 2013, read count: 1

A good book to read if you want to see how elastic point-of-view can become in the hands of a skillful writer. O'Nan easily moves from the rotating third-person--often distant to the point of omniscience--present tense viewpoint of one storyline, that of the multiple tragedies that befall Glenn and Annie Marchand, to the first-person, past tense account of 14-year-old Arthur Parkinson, narrating at a remove of some decades the more ordinary tragedy of his parents' unraveling marriage after 23 years. All of this takes place in a marvelously evoked late 1970s setting of small town Pennsylvania.

At the book's midpoint, O'Nan delivers the first of two almost unbearable scenes, proving the maxim that extreme emotion is best portrayed by paradoxically using neutral language. He also shifts briefly into the future tense, moving to the story-present of middle-aged Arthur as he looks back on this searing moment:

The hunt has spread across the interstate to the middle school grounds. Trucks file by the flares, the troopers' orange-coned flashlights. The Army Reserve has promised two squads if this should go until tomorrow.

Yet it will not be any of these searchers who finds Tara, but a fourteen-year-old from the high school marching band, small for his size, generally ignored, in fact, myself, Arthur Parkinson, who, because she is dead, will not be a hero--will not, years from now, even be remembered around town as the one who found her--but who with Annie and Glenn and Brock and May and Frank and Olive and Clare and Barb, will find Tara again and again throughout his life and never ever lose her.

I love this passage. It's as if O'Nan has distilled a pure essence of sadness and decanted it onto the page.
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Tripp Elastic pov.

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