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Whiter Than Snow Hardcover – March 30, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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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
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312600150
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #696,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I picked up this novel thinking the focus would be on the avalanche that buried 9 children in a small Colorado mining town in the early 20th century. It certainly opens that way and the reader is told early on that, of the 9 children hit by the avalanche, 4 of them survive.

However, the bulk of the book focuses on the mother of each child, or, in some instances, the father or grandfather of a child and their stories, one chapter for each. Two estranged sisters, a wealthy woman, a local prostitute, a black man who escaped racial atrocities, and a Civil War veteran. With each chapter, the reader has to wonder whether that person's child/children will survive the calamity.

I've seen some complaints that it's hard to keep the characters straight but I didn't think that at all. It's beautifully written and the characters are memorable. I really enjoyed it and plan to read more by this author (this was the first Sandra Dallas book I've read). Overall, I'd call it very good but something I can't quite pinpoint was lacking for me. Beautifully written but almost too matter of fact, perhaps.
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