Eileen Granfors's Reviews > An Echo Through the Snow

An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos
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Jun 28, 12

bookshelves: animals, coming-of-age, families, environment, historical-fiction, local-color, outdoor-adventure, women
Read from May 28 to June 27, 2012

I love most dog books, from "Must Love Dogs" to "The Art of Racking in the Rain." I worried that I wouldn't handle this book well, knowing it begins with the rescue of an abused guard dog.

Early on, the main character, Rosalie MacKenzie works through the situation with Smokey quickly, taking him from a chained up guard dog, barely fed and treated with disrespect, to her own, much-loved dog.

Rosalie has a habit of getting fired for her bad attitude. She gets involved with the wrong men. She is sullen and nervous. Having lost her mother at a young age, she raised herself when her father, Arlan, went into alcohol-fueled grief. Once she has Smokey to care for, Rosalie's life expands.

She enjoys solitude, beading dresses in the native tradition, an art she learned as a child. She would rather bead than go out drinking with the few choices for friends in her town.

She is taken on as a helper to Jan and Dave, who train dog teams. They are as dedicated to their dogs as most people are to their children. Because Rosalie has a way with dogs, reading their body language comes naturally to her. Jan And Dave will not give up in their quest to get Rosalie to work for them. Although she feels pressured to keep stepping up her skills and responsibilities at their kennel, the couple does not waiver in their respect for her. She is given a team to train.

Rosalie's adventures in the snow with old dogs, young dogs, bad weather, and spills may shake her courage, but she keeps on going.

Through them she meets the town vet. He too sees something special in Rosalie when she's with animals. He too pushes her to consider a life beyond her little village of dead ends on Lake Superior, to think beyond settling for whatever man might show interest in her.

The plot line involving a love story is a little thin, but it's nothing to make you stop reading.

Woven into the story of Rosalie is the story of the native peoples of Chukchi. Their knowledge of the woods and their respect for life go together in a religious symmetry. They are not, however, especially kind to one another, to their wives, to their children. When the Stalinist Russians overtake their villages, the people are ruthlessly killed, taken to work camps, and split up as families. The story of Jeaantaa, her Guardian dogs, and the brothers Tariem and Uptek, brings in the history of the native people and the use of dogs with dog sleds.

The setting is a character here. From the wild lands around Lake Superior through the pine forests and frozen lake across the Bering Sea to a peninsula of Siberia, Thalasinos uses the setting show the hardships of life in the far reaches of North America/Asia and the resilience of people who are there permanently. It is not quite the vacationland the summer tourists, oooh and ah over. They come to shoot an animal or take in more fish than they can eat and promptly leave.

Thalasinos examines environmental damage. She is unafraid to voice despair about the impact of foreign regimes on native cultures. Above all, she introduces the life of dog teams with astute attention to detail all the while telling a story of a young girl saved from a life of low expectations. This is a book full of lessons and stunning moments of beauty in a forbidding climate.

The time lapse between when I began this book and when I finished it is only a reflection of how I packed for a trip, not of my lack of interest in the book.
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