From Publishers Weekly
In this stilted, disjointed smalltown disaster drama, a 1920 Colorado avalanche traps nine children in a snow drift, turning their close-knit community upside-down in the process. As the children's families learn of their predicament, the complicated backstories that bind the members of sleepy Swandyke come to light; in the present, the developing tragedy, including multiple deaths, transforms the community through sorrow, forgiveness, and redemption. Unfortunately, novelist Dallas (Prayers for Sale
) isn't up to the challenge of multiple plot threads, a large cast of characters, or the heavily loaded children-in-distress material; exaggerated caricature, stiff dialogue, and poorly integrated character history make for awkward, disappointing melodrama. (Apr.)
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When an avalanche thundered down the mountain housing the Fourth of July Mine in Swandyke, Colorado, that bright April afternoon in 1920, it carried death and destruction but also provided the seeds for forgiveness and redemption. Grace Foote, the mine manager’s wife, sees the children on their way home from school. Joe Cobb, the only black man in town, is one of the first to dig for them. Sisters Lucy and Dolly, estranged for years, unite now in the face of shared tragedy. Essie Schnabel, from New York City and Jewish and working in a brothel, stands vigil, as does Minder Evans, a crusty Civil War veteran raising his grandson. Dallas presents another historical novel about the hardscrabble mining communities of Colorado, set just down the road from her best-selling Prayers for Sale (2009), creating a patchwork of individuals whose lives had not intersected until this singular, transformative event. Readers may find the abrupt transitions and preponderance of flashbacks confusing and distancing. Dallas is well known for her storytelling abilities, but this reads more like a valediction of a time and place faded from memory than her usual vibrant, visceral tale. Still, Dallas is a magnet. --Lynne Welch