When life gives us more than we think we can handle, running away from our problems, whether literally or mentally, may seem like the only viable option available. In reality, this knee jerk reaction is more of a temporary coping mechanism than a solution. No matter how far we run, our problems will be waiting patiently for as long as it takes. Running away from overwhelming situations before finding the courage to deal with them is a recurring theme in Shoveling Snow, by Brett Sills. Each of the four main characters skips town in one way or another, and needs to figure out individually how to cope with the sometimes devastating pitfalls of life, as well as the consequences of poor choices.
First we have Ben, who first flees the cold environment of his sad and disappointing childhood, trading snowy winters for the warmth of new beginnings on the other side of the country. Later he takes off again, returning to the cold as he desperately races from the confusion and sorrow of his adult life. There Ben meets Smoof, a bitter young girl distancing herself from the world by her attitude and actions, and Rose, a woman who has spent most of her adult life escaping responsibility, and who thinks she might finally be ready to see what happens when she stops running. Lastly, there is Smoof’s mother Maggie, always in the background and the underlying cause of much trouble and heartache for Smoof as well as Rose and Ben. The stories of these four characters, whom fate has brought together in the small coastal town of Swintonport, Maine, are delicately interwoven throughout Shoveling Snow, creating an emotional saga of friendship and love.
During the course of the book, chapters regarding the history of Swintonport are interspersed with the narratives of Ben, Smoof, Rose, and Maggie. While interesting, this history lesson falls short of its potential to enrich the novel as a whole. It doesn’t tie in with the story enough, other than giving background information and providing examples of several mass exoduses of the town throughout its past. I would have loved to see more of a correlation between the historical chapters and the present day chapters.
Shoveling Snow is a moving account of loss, fear, selfishness, human error, forgiveness, moving on, and letting go. It is a portrayal of what happens when people run from their problems, and ultimately, what happens when they own up to them and make the decision to move forward. Ben, Smoof, Rose, and even the elusive and tragic Maggie, are each endearing in their own ways as they blunder through all that life has thrown in their paths. This book is a quick and uncomplicated read; it has an easy to follow storyline that would make it a perfect waiting room or bedtime fare.
Alysia lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and four children. She writes about family life, parenting issues, and other things of interest to her on her blog, Michigal.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Brett Sills. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.