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The Weight of Winter Hardcover – November 1, 1991


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My Struggle: Book Four
Eighteen-year-old Karl Ove moves to a tiny fishing village in the Arctic Circle to work as a school teacher. As the nights get longer, the shadow cast by his father's own sharply increasing alcohol consumption, also gets longer. Read the full description
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (November 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670840904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670840908
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 20 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,658,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Readers familiar with Pelletier's novels ( Once upon a Time on the Banks ) will rejoice to find themselves back in Mattagash, Maine, where "your life was like an old winter coat you were forced to wear until it wore out." This masterful work casts a wide net in its portrayal of present-day descendants of Mattagash's early settlers--Crafts, Fennelsons, McKinnons, Giffords--who, like their forebears, all know one another, watch one another, feud with one another. As snow isolates the town from autumn to spring, some people long to escape while others accept the frozen landscape as a fact of life, and the geography of Mattagash becomes as important as any character. The novel opens with the season's first snowfall and ends, pointedly, at Thanksgiving. During this brief interval, single, middle-aged Amy Joy Lawler ponders institutionalizing her mother; the town gossips spread word that Amy Joy is pregnant; abusive Pike Gifford visits tragedy on those he loves best; Bennett Craft's relatives suffer over his suicide. Binding these and other stories are the poetically charged memories of 107-year-old Mathilda Fennelson, the oldest living Mattagasher. Pelletier's ear for dialogue is exceptional, and her characters' interior monologues, what they think but don't say, are subversive, humorous and heartbreaking.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

First there was The Funeral Makers ( LJ 5/15/86) and then Once Upon a Time on the Banks ( LJ 8/89). Now here is the last of the trilogy detailing the lives of a variety of characters who people the backwoods town of Mattagash, Maine. Like its predecessors, this book promises to be well received and continues the same rich vein of well-crafted, poetic prose. Many of the original characters vividly reappear somewhat older but not necessarily wiser. Their individual stories spin around each other with the tightness and intricacy of the genealogical web which binds these folk together. Frequently funny and always poignant, it is a chronicle of past and present times, detailing lost dreams, found meaning, and echoing the sins of generations. What Mathilda Fennelson, the oldest living inhabitant of the town says of herself on the night of her death, "I'm all heart and nerve and memory," is also true of these stories.
- Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
5 star
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4 star
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See all 13 customer reviews
So it seems contrived, though I suppose that's just due to my own experience.
Bob Nolin
It is in this quality, above all others, that Pelletier stands out as one of the best novelists I have read.
Kenneth F. Anderson
While reading the successive books I kept wanting to stop and make changes in the book (ex.
Patricia D. Young

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth F. Anderson on September 5, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the third Cathie Pelletier novel that I've read, and I have to say that they keep getting better.

Set in the fictitious logging town of Mattagash, in Maine's northern Aroostook County, where the river creates a natural boundary between the United States and Canada, The Weight of Winter continues the stories of the families that we were introduced to in The Funeral Makers, published in 1986, and Once Upon a Time in the Banks, published in 1989. Approximately thirty years have gone by since Pelletier first brought these people into our lives and, while some have died, they are represented here by a new generation, and others, who we met first in The Funeral Makers, are still among the living, although I must warn you that not everyone survives to the end of the novel.

When I list the authors I admire, I realize that nearly all of them are men, yet Cathie Pelletier ranks high on the list. Whether she is telling the story from the perspectives of a 12-year-old boy, a 31-year-old alcoholic, or a 107-year-old woman languishing away in a nursing home, her characters are amazingly believable. It is in this quality, above all others, that Pelletier stands out as one of the best novelists I have read.

We first came to know Amy Joy Lawler when she was first entering high school as a freshman, in The Funeral Makers. She was not long out of high school in Once Upon a Time on the Banks, and she is now a 45-year-old single woman, taking care of her aging mother, Sicily, who is every bit as feisty as she had been thirty years prior.

Pike Gifford, Jr. was a newborn, if he was even named in the first novel, set in the late 1950s, but appears as "Little Pee" in the second, which takes place about ten years later.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 20, 1997
Format: Paperback
I won't bother to recap the theme of the novel,
since that's been done quite adequately elsewhere,
but I will say that this novel is very funny and
sad at the same time - I was either laughing or
crying with each page. The author brings these
characters to life with such love and depth of
feeling that I feel like I know them. I bought
this book hoping to learn a little more about the
state of Maine and its people (I've recently
moved here) and I ended up discovering a new
author to add to my list of favorites. Don't miss
this one!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 1997
Format: Paperback
The Weight of Winter is one of Pelletier's best yet. This book offers a brilliant description of small town America. She has a magical way of painting a story in which she weaves together layers of tales so true to life that you begin to feel for and with each character. Pelletier has a gifted knack for describiing the small town attitude and character of New England. I strongly recommend this to people who like books with heart, character and New England charm
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was a bookseller in the audience the night Cathie Pelletier picked up her award in Boston for this book, the New England Book Sellers Award. And never has one been more deserved. This has got to be one of the best novels of American life and progress and folklore ever put in print. What a shame future readers will have to search to find it unless it's put back in print. OPRAH, where are you on this one?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jbarr5 (julie Barrett) on August 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
The Weight of Winter by Cathie Pellitier
Many stories on various subjects about life in Maine. During the winter, like being on an island
you must find and make your own excitement. Most just hibernate and you might see them once a week shopping.
Chapters of hunting, lyme disease. Gossip runs rabid when you have nothing to occupy your time like listening to the police scanner.
Love little quotes from authors at the beginning of the chapters, so fitting. Dialect is so true to life!
Stories from those at the retirement section about the ancestors and how the town was founded.
Woodworking and other craft/career others in town do to get by during the cold winter months. Enjoyed the walks through the woods, things found and treasured.
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Teresa Jansen on September 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The characters of Matagash, Maine are a colorful lot, dreading the long, oppressive winter ahead. Wonderfully written with humor, yet extremely hard-hitting on the subject of spousal abuse and its effect on children. Mothers: take care of your children, even if you refuse to take care of yourself. This book is the third of a series, but you do not have to read the first two in order to understand and enjoy this one. This is a very talented writer. The writing is smooth and the story never drags.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I discovered Cathie Pelletier recently while searching through Amazon, using its suggestions as a way to find a book to read. Not sure why I started with the last book in the trilogy, but I did. The writing style reminds me a bit of John Dufresne (a Massachusetts native who writes about his adopted Louisiana) and Anne Tyler. I'm especially reminded of Dufresne's Deep in the Shade of Paradise: A Novel, since they both have invented genealogies, and families are deeply woven together. This is totally alien to my own background, where only my nuclear family matters, and the rest are off somewhere in the ozone. So it seems contrived, though I suppose that's just due to my own experience. I wonder, is this just Faulkner-lite? Or are Southern/Northern/backwoods families really like this?

Another book this brought to mind is Main Street, where a city person marries a country doctor and moves to his little town out on the prairie. The gossiping is what I see in common here, and in both books I found it very upsetting. (I value my privacy, and could not tolerate that type of invasion.) I'm not sure what Pelletier is trying to say about the people of her fictional town of Mattagash. She spends a very large amount of time showing us the two main gossips, Lola and Dorrie, as they cruise around town looking for scandals. This duo is depicted in a very unflattering way, so I suppose we are meant to laugh at them: a sort of Laurel and Hardy gossip team. I do notice that there are people who have no job or purpose (the gossips, Pike, the elderly) and these people cause the rest trouble.
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