Snow Angels
Stewart O'Nan
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Buy *Snow Angels* by Stewart O'Nan online

Snow Angels
Stewart O'Nan
336 pages
February 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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This is a story that links two families, almost indirectly, by a tragedy that affects them in enormously painful ways. Set in a rural community in Pennsylvania in mid-1970, the story builds around the lives of the two main characters, Arthur Parkinson and Annie Marchand. Arthur, who narrates the chapters about his part in this heartbreaking story, is a 14-year-old high school student who is dealing with his familyís slowly decaying break-up. At the same time, a narrator who gives us the picture of her dismal, failing marriage and careless lifestyle tells Annieís chaotic story.

Arthur and his older sister, Astrid, are the children of parents who are selfish and immature, putting their needs ahead of their children. As Arthurís mother decides to divorce his father, the life Arthur knows begins to change. Moving and their resulting socio-economic situation only add to Arthurís problems as he tries to confront his involvement in Annieís story. Adolescence, confusion, fear and torment all play into Arthurís mental state during this time. The events in his life during these years are only overshadowed by the awful part that involves Arthur in Annieís heartbreaking calamity. Whereas Annie Marchand was once the delightful babysitter to Arthur and Astrid, she soon inadvertently becomes the center of many of the familyís problems, especially Arthur.

Annie, meanwhile, grows up to marry Glenn Marchand, and her imprudent and neglectful acts soon result in her leaving Glenn, despite how it may affect her daughter, Tara. Although Glenn tries in his own somewhat feeble way to reconcile with Annie, whom he still loves, she rejects his efforts. She goes as far as to having an affair with Brock, one of her own friendís boyfriends. Annie proves to be even more selfish than one can imagine, even neglecting Tara. This results in tragic consequences that lead to the beginning, and the end, of this tormented tale. Annie brings her future about through her actions, yet OíNanís treatment can still leave one with sympathy for her.

In the end, we find Arthur still questioning what really has gone on and how things happened. Arthur feels that perhaps, if he concentrates on the details of the past few years described in the book, he ďwill finally understand everything that happened back then,Ē yet he goes on to say that he knows he canít. We are left with great sympathy for Arthur, who turns out to be somewhat of an innocent bystander to all that goes on around him due to the other charactersí actions.

Snow Angels is one of Stewart OíNanís earliest works. Recently having previewed his soon-to-be-released Songs for the Missing and going back to read Last Night at the Lobster, I wasnít sure what to expect from Snow Angels. I was pleasantly relieved to find that Snow Angels falls in line with my opinion of OíNan as based on Last Night at the Lobster, instead of the extremely disappointing Songs for the Missing. With Snow Angels, OíNan gives us the same working-class characterizations that made me love Lobster book and allows the reader to relate to the story and want to finish reading it without stopping. This is a story that will stay with the reader for a long time, as it will with me.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Karen D. Haney, 2008

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