Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Snow Angels"

James Thompson, eastern Kentucky–born and –raised, has lived in Finland well over a decade and currently makes his home in Helsinki with his wife. Before becoming a full-time writer, he studied Swedish and Finnish and worked as a bartender, bouncer, construction worker, photographer, rare coin dealer, and soldier.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Snow Angels, his debut novel, and reported the following:
If I had to choose a page representative of Snow Angels, 69 wouldn’t be it. It contains characterization elements that go to the core of the personalities of the protagonist, but a reader judging the book as a whole based on page 69 would miss out on the book's key themes. Depression, alcoholism, racism, violence. The environment. I think the easiest way to illustrate the book as a whole is to include an excerpt more representative of it here, from pages 31-32:
Dad nurses a water glass half full of vodka in silence. I remember that my sister died thirty-two years ago today, that’s why he’s being such a prick.

The cold came late that year, but when it did, it hit hard. I was nine and Suvi was eight. Mom was a regular brood mare, five children in seven years. Dad wanted to go ice fishing. Suvi and I asked if we could come along and skate. Mom warned Dad that the ice was still too thin, but he hushed her up. “Kari will look after Suvi,” he said.

A lot of snow had fallen, but it was dry powder. The wind had blown it off the lake, and the ice was as slick and clean as glass. The afternoon was starry, and out on the ice we could see almost as if we had daylight. Dad drilled a hole in the ice and sat on a crate, fishing and warming himself with a bottle of Three Lions whiskey.

I tried to take care of Suvi. We were skating fast, toward the middle of the lake, but I was holding her hand. I heard a sharp crack, felt a jerk on my arm, and she was gone. It took me a second to understand what had happened, and then I was scared the ice would break under me too. I crawled to where Suvi fell through, but she was already slipping away. The last I saw of Suvi alive was her little fists thrashing, beating at the ice.

I was too scared to go in after her, and Dad was too drunk, so we did nothing. He sat there crying, and I ran for help. They drilled holes in the ice and dredged under it with fishing nets. It didn’t take long, she hadn’t drifted far. When they pulled her out, she had a look of surprise more than pain frozen on her face.
Read an excerpt from Snow Angels, and learn more about the book and author at James Thompson's website and blog.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue