An Interview with Anita Shreve
Interviewer Luan Gaines:
Robert Dillon's response to the tragic accidental death of his wife and small daughter is to isolate from the world, providing minimal family comforts to twelve-year old Nicky, his other daughter. How does this decision aggravate the recovery from their devastating loss?
Dillon's desire is to separate himself from anything that might remind him of his former life -- his job, his old home, even newspapers. Nicky, coming of age, begins not to be able to tolerate this removal from the world -- from a world she is eager to enter. It will be she who pushes them back into "ordinary" life.
Discovering the newborn in the snow reopens the Dillon's wounds, but the child is also a symbol of rebirth. Nicky senses change in the air, but Robert stubbornly ignores the opportunity to awaken from his long sadness. Why?
To some extent, Dillon is incapable of doing anything else. He's been shattered and broken. He's trying to make it day to day. He wants to be a good father -- but even his best efforts fall short, and he knows it. I don't think he's stubborn so much as helpless in the face of catastrophe.
Can you speak to the contrast between Robert and Nicky's reactions to the sudden appearance of the baby's mother at their home?
Dillon is immediately wary. He's torn -- as we later discover -- between turning Charlotte in and sheltering her until she can leave. He wants no part of her crime, and particularly doesn't want her corrupting his daughter. As for Nicky, she sees Charlotte as a cross between a god-send and a goddess. Mysterious, enigmatic and adult, Charlotte is an endlessly fascinating representative from the outside world.
Although the new mother, Charlotte, is burdened with the awful reality of her actions, she and Nicky are irresistibly drawn together. How does Charlotte's presence serve as a catalyst for healing them both?
Nicky says it herself. She doesn't want a replacement for her mother; or for her own baby sister. She wants something in-between, something that Charlotte perfectly fits. Nicky begins to imagine a life with Charlotte -- how they will both care for the Baby Doris, how Charlotte will mother her. I think it's important to note that Nicky also mothers Charlotte -- protecting her, staying with her, hiding her, feeding her, even putting a blanket over her. Each is a nurturer to the other -- something sorely lacking in the Dillon household.
Lack of joy burdens the Dillon's. How do rescuing the baby, sheltering Charlotte and facing the consequences of their actions ultimately change the direction of their lives?
Charlotte and the baby are catalysts, but Nicky's spirit for life is the driving force. Without the baby and Charlotte, Nicky might have become rebellious. One can imagine all sorts of unfortunate outcomes for her. Instead, the enormity of finding the baby and hiding Charlotte bring Nicky and her father closer together. The terrific fight they have near the end is really the beginning of their new life together.
Anita Shreve is the author of many acclaimed novels, including Eden Close, The Weight of Water, The Last Time They Met, The Pilot's Wife, Sea Glass, and All He Ever Wanted. She lives in Massachusetts..
Contributing reviewer Luan Gaines interviewed Anita Shreve, author of Light on Snow (see accompanying review), about her book via email for curledup.com. This text is the property of Luan Gaines and the author for whom it is intended. No part may be reproduced without permission. Luan Gaines/2004.