A few weeks ago my cousin and I met for a long overdue lunch date and then she graciously invited me to her book club group. I enjoyed both the discussion of the book ORPHAN TALE by Pam Jenoff and the opportunity to meet this strong opinionated (in a good way) group of readers. Like so many encounters with readers, I came away with suggestions of even more books to read. One lady mentioned that one of their first group reads over two years ago had really impacted her, and her mind traces back to the book WHITER THAN SNOW often. When I discovered that the book had been written by Sandra Dallas, I knew I had to read the book and soon. I’ve read several Dallas novels, including PRAYERS FOR SALES, and have never been disappointed.
WHITER THAN SNOW is the story of an April avalanche in a Colorado mining town in 1920 just as school lets out for the afternoon. Nine young children have already started their walk across the town to their homes and are caught in the slide that rumbled down Jubilee Mountain. Only four will survive. Sandra Dallas’s craft is fine-tuned and her works always stand out as unique gems of story- telling. As the book opens, Dallas describes a normal day in the mining town, speculates on what happenstance may have caused the avalanche, and then ends the first chapter with the shock that only four of the nine children trapped will survive.
Then for the next 200 pages, Dallas ignores all mention of the avalanche, instead telling the stories of individual adult residents of the town, sharing with readers their youthful dreams and the broken paths that brought each one to Swandyke and the Fourth of July Mine. Soon we will realize that we are learning the back stories for the parents and guardians for the nine children who will soon be taking that fateful walk home from school. For the last 80 pages, the author returns to the subject of the first chapter – the avalanche, the nine trapped children, the effort to rescue them and then the tragic recovery of the five bodies. After the earlier chapters which jumped around the country and across decades, these last pages center on only a few hours and very little is written about the children’s experience in the snow. This is really a book about the parents (in one case, grandfather) and how these few hours change their lives as they realize that no one is “whiter than snow.” This is truly a story that shows that tragedy and grief brings together people who believe they have nothing in common. It can also lead to forgiveness, acts of courage, and new paths, as people realize that no one is "whiter than snow." One of the greatest levels of praise I can give to an author is to say that I cared about the characters as if they were real people. WHITER THAN SNOW will stay in my memory in the months ahead. I checked out this book from the library system.