Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos

As readers may know, Lake Superior is a favorite place of mine and it is also the setting of some recent well written novels, the latest being An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos.  Two stories alternate throughout the book, one being the story of Jeaantaa, a Chukchi (native) woman of Siberia at the time of Stalin's persecution in 1920's; and the other story of Rosalie, a Red Cliff Native American living in 1990's Bayfield, WI.  I found the  early chapters of Jeaantaa's story difficult to follow and felt bogged down by the foreign terms (not explained) and mystical beliefs. I almost set the book aside, which is something that I NEVER do, and luckily, Rosalie's story was enough to keep me going past the first 50 pages. 

To anyone reading this book (which does come with my strong recommendation), I suggest that you go to Andrea Thalasinos's website and read the section called about the book. You will learn enough historical background to understand the Chukchi natives.  Knowing this will help you make connections between Jeaanataa's plight and Rosalie's story much earlier than I did.

As the story begins, Rosalie is trapped in an abusive marriage, a dead end job, and doesn't  even possess a high school diploma -- and she is not even twenty years old.  As she watches a "junk yard" watch dog be mistreated Rosalie is compelled to rescue him, knowing it means the end to her sham of a marriage. While she and the dog heal, she begins to train him and is noticed by two area dog sled team owners. They offer Rosalie a job and her life begins to take on meaning as she bonds with the dogs and quickly adds to her own rag tag group of misfits.  These cleverly interwoven stories will eventually connect two distinct places and peoples, both defined by the amazing sled dogs we know as huskies.

The book is filled with well drawn secondary characters whose unique stories add depth to both Jeaanataa and Rosalie.  Rosalie's father and her new boyfriend Dan are two that show  character and fame/wealth are not necessarily companions.  I appreciate how the author drew on Rosalie's Native American heritage (she makes extra money hand beading fine clothing), but does not stoop to make her a cliche.  I "read" Rosalie as a young woman caught in bad decisions, partly fostered by her setting and heritage, who is unaware of her strengths and potential.  Her chances to set herself free are fostered by others who care and by an unexplainable connection to the animals she loves.

Lake Superior lovers like myself will hear Bayfield, Squaw Caves, and Cornucopia and will think,
"This is a story I need to read."  Dog lovers will be drawn in by the eyes of the dogs.  History buffs will latch on to the struggle to survive of a native group far across the ice flows.  And those who love stories of self-discovery will cheer as Rosalie grows into herself.

Great book for book clubs!

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