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Whiter Than Snow Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 30, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312600151
  • ASIN: B0048EL850
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Prize-winning author Sandra Dallas was dubbed "a quintessential American voice" by Jane Smiley, in Vogue Magazine. Sandra's novels with their themes of loyalty, friendship, and human dignity have been translated into a dozen foreign languages and have been optioned for films.

A journalism graduate of the University of Denver, Sandra began her writing career as a reporter with Business Week. A staff member for twenty-five years (and the magazine's first female bureau chief,) she covered the Rocky Mountain region, writing about everything from penny-stock scandals to hard-rock mining, western energy development to contemporary polygamy. Many of her experiences have been incorporated into her novels.

While a reporter, she began writing the first of ten nonfiction books. They include Sacred Paint, which won the National Cowboy Hall of Fame Western Heritage Wrangler Award, and The Quilt That Walked to Golden, recipient of the Independent Publishers Assn. Benjamin Franklin Award.

Turning to fiction in 1990, Sandra has published nine novels, including Whiter Than Snow, and the New York Times best seller Prayers for Sale. Sandra is the recipient of the Women Writing the West Willa Award for New Mercies, and two-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award, for The Chili Queen and Tallgrass. In addition, she was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award, the Mountain and Plains Booksellers Assn. Award, and a four-time finalist for the Women Writing the West Willa Award.

The mother of two daughters--Dana is an attorney in New Orleans and Povy is a photographer in Golden, Colorado--Sandra lives in Denver with her husband, Bob.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Mercedes J. VINE VOICE on April 21, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've read all of Ms. Dallas's books, and have loved every one of them. 'Whiter Than Snow' is a great story about some of the folks of Swandyke, CO...a mining town at what feels like the top of the world.

The story begins with an avalanche that buries nine children who were walking home from school, killing five of them. We don't find out which four survive till the very end. The following chapters are about each of the parents of the nine children, and their individual stories; how they came to end up in Swandyke, and the shameful secrets they harbor.

Ms. Dallas has such a talent for developing her characters and making you care about them. Once you hear the stories of each parent, it's heartbreaking to know some of them will have lost their children...children who, for some, are the only thing keeping them going each day. The ending was a fine one. I hesitate to say 'good', or 'satisfactory', since so many little lives were lost, but for being such a sad tale, she ending it with a glimmer of hope.

**As for the Kindle version, it was terrible. I'm sure this is not Ms. Dallas's doing, which is why I'm not deducting stars for it, but there were so many errors! And what's worse, this book was $11.99! Not the normal $9.99 that most Kindle books are. I would think if a publisher was going to charge more for a Kindle format, they would at least make sure it was translated properly. For instance...every time the word 'off' appeared, an 'f' was missing. EVERY...SINGLE...TIME, throughout the WHOLE book. 'Off' read as 'Of'. Not the end of the world, but annoying nonetheless. Also, there was a LOT of punctuation missing, and there would be huge gaps in the middle of a word, mainly longer words. Overall, NOT a pleasant Kindle experience...especially not for $11.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Luci B on April 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Yes, I am an admitted Sandra Dallas fan and yes, I did have her newest book pre-ordered just because that's what I do. Needless to say, she does not let her legion of fans down with this sad, sad story. It made for some tearful reading and yet, I had to know what made these characters all end up in that high mountain town and experience the tragedy that befalls them. I found myself in such places as the Civil War, the New York tenement district,a poor Iowa farmstead-just to name a few locations that were all described as if you were, in fact, there. I would recommend this story to anyone who will not be too haunted by the heartbreaking outcome.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Linda M. Register on April 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was absolutely one of the best human interest books I have ever read.
Every character was beautifully developed and interesting. The story unfolded gently and the ending left you wanting just one more chapter. If you love books that teach you something,i.e., life in a mining town and American history, Civil War and family values, then please read WHITER THAN SNOW.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Joanna M VINE VOICE on December 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Dallas details the lives of various residents of Swandyke, Colorado, a tiny remote mining town nestled deep in the mountains, in the years prior to a horrific avalanche that rocks the community when it overtakes nine young children walking home from school. There's Grace, the wealthy and aloof wife of the mine manager who feels guilty over the way she married her husband; Lucy, an average wife and mother who hasn't spoken to her beloved sister in years; Joe, a widowed father and the town's only black man, who fled his home in the South one terrible night; Minder, a Civil War veteran who can't let go of the things that happened during battle, raising his orphaned grandson alone; and Essie, a prostitute who has been concealing both the facts that she is Jewish and that she has a young daughter.

Despite the book presumably being about the avalanche, Dallas actually devotes only a very small number of pages to the tragedy, and it isn't until about two-thirds of the way through. The entire event is almost besides the point; it's the life before and around that day that matters more. And, in fact, despite the children being the ones most directly affected by the avalanche, readers learn almost nothing about them. It's the parents that matter, and how their worldview changes due to what's happened.

Dallas has taken on an interesting format for telling her story, and perhaps that was her focus as she wrote. Unfortunately, by the time the actual avalanche occurs, it seems almost anticlimatic. Also, so many other storylines have led up to the event that the book feels a bit disjointed, and certainly too busy for the number of pages.

While this left me a bit disappointed, I have to say it was still interesting enough in its own right, and I'll be looking forward to Dallas' next work.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ginger on December 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a disjointed story line. The characters were somewhat interesting but it took too long to get to know them. And then they seemed to be very one dimensional. All the time to describe the characters, then the avalanche and then it's over. What was the point?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Ward on May 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Tragedy strikes Swandyke, a small Colorado mining town, snatching up a group of schoolchildren in its wake. This crisis brings together an unlikely group of people. Lucy Patch, a bright woman who once sacrificed her dreams for her impoverished family, meets her long-estranged sister, Dolly Patch. Joe Cobb, the only black man in town, once fled vicious racism in Alabama with his beloved daughter in his arms. Grace Foote, born to wealth, laments a twist of fate that changed her life. Minder Evans, a veteran of The War Between the States, has spent his life haunted by ghosts of the war and unspeakable guilt. He now lives for his young grandson, his only living family member. Essie Snowball, raised by a traditional Jewish family in a New York tenement, is now a prostitute at the local hook house. All these people are drawn together, at the scene of a tragedy, by their love for their children and their terror of losing them.

This novel opens at the moment of the crisis then steps back to explore the history of each of these characters. It flows more like a series of vignettes than a novel, yet I found each story so compelling I couldn't put the book down. Sandra Dallas is a master storyteller. I was drawn into each time and place she described: a Civil War battlefield and prison camp, a hot, steamy Alabama farm, and a dry, frigid mining town, near the peak of a Colorado mountain, around the turn of the 20th century. Parallel themes of love, disappointment, loss and yearning for a better life run through these characters' stories. They also delve into prejudice, cruelty, and the stifling nature of rigid gender roles, as well as forgiveness and atonement for past sins.
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