This multigenerational saga contains so many elements that at first I was afraid the author wasn’t going to be able to handle all she’d decided to mix into this heartwarming story of love, life, and closure.
My fears were assuaged quickly enough by the clean style, short chapters, and impeccable tone of the novel. The Edge of Winter is one part romance, one part mystery, one part family healing, and one part activism. Given all these elements, you’d expect it to be a mess, but it is a coherent intermingling of ideas and themes that work swimmingly and even surprisingly well at times.
Rice sets the tone for The Edge of Winter immediately. Two girls are riding their bicycles down a beach road, and the author’s opening sentence
- “The day the world ended started out crystal clear...” - grabs the reader at once. Rice doesn’t stop there. A pro, she knows how to pull the reader through the story with just the right amount of atmosphere and nuances. As the girls make their way down the road, Rice peppers her text with references to the stinging wind, sand, and crispness of the day. One can almost feel the freedom the girls are experiencing, feel the day, feel the coming change that will forever alter their lives.
This is what is so perfect about Rice’s tenor—the way she handles her material.
As the plot progresses, we learn more about the girls and other residents of the town. Rice fleshes out these people, and one has to wonder how many of them are real. There’s nothing horribly bad here that anyone could complain about, but I’ve yet to come across a writer who so
could make me feel for her characters. Rice does so, and with a great deal of honestly and warmth.
Mickey is the main focus of the novel, her relationship with her mother developing as the older woman falls in love with a park ranger.
More and more comes to light as the evil developer’s son injures an owl (the owl theme runs throughout the book and has many connotations and metaphors attached) and Mickey, her mother, and friend Shane bond over the experience of trying to save the poor creature.
As you might expect in a story such as this, there are myriad connections in the town, and the main telling of the story seems to be the explanation of who knows whom and why. At the point
at which the injured owl is taken to an old man known for helping animals, it is discovered that he is none other than a one-time commander who sank a U-boat off the coast. The U-boat figures into the story (is actually the center of it),
connecting with the owl and everyone else in the town. At this point, The Edge of Winter begins to turn a bit sappy, and I feared that certain people were going to be related to others in the town. Unfortunately, my guess was correct, and this was only one of my disappointments. Another involved a few passages in the book where clarification by an editor could have helped greatly. Example: In the prologue, Mickey and Jenna are riding their bikes. For the entire chapter—not having read the back cover to find out the gist of the story—I assumed that “Mickey” was a boy and Jenna, a girl; a sort of
To Kill a Mockingbird tale, if you will. It was only in chapter one where a male figure comments on “two girls” riding by, that I got it—that it was not a boy and girl. There were several more examples such as this, but, having read a great deal, I have come to expect foibles in this vein and didn’t find that it marred the overall experience of reading the book.
Though it is at times a bit preachy about conservationism and heroism, I nevertheless found this
to be a decent book. It’s pleasant, easy to follow, and the characters are very real and written with care. One gets the feeling that Rice loves the subject she writes about, and her descriptions of southern Rhode Island are incredibly accurate. I look forward to reading more of her books.