Title: Girl in Snow
Author: Danya Kukafka
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: 3 Stars
I received an ARC copy of Girl in Snow in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Thanks goes to NetGalley as well as Simon & Schuster for this advanced copy which has recently been published on August 1, 2017.
“Nostalgia is my favorite emotion. It’s like, you think you know how to deal with the passage of time, but nostalgia will prove you wrong. You’ll press your fact into an old sweat shirt, or you’ll look at a familiar shade of paint on a front door, and you’ll be reminded of all the time that got away from you.”
Dear fellow Babblers,
Girl in Snow is Danya Kukafka’s first novel which was recently released just four days ago, on August 1st. Despite it being now in book stores, I somehow fell behind on my review schedule and have foregone posting the review, despite my having received the ARC over a month ago. Although I had a hard time putting this novel down and finished it in less than two days, I’m not exactly one hundred percent how I feel about it; whether it was a page turner because it was so unpredictable or simply because I was irritated that narration would abruptly change to a different character and tell a seemingly different story altogether. The premise itself, a thriller about a girl who is mysteriously found dead one morning one morning has potential in term of narration, but the way in which the novel was written stylistically leaves me a bit disheartened and, to be blunt, disappointed.
Who Are You When No One Is Watching?
When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.
In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. Compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow offers an unforgettable reading experience and introduces a singular new talent in Danya Kukafka.
Girl in Snow is an eclectic mystery that is told from the perspective of three figures, Cameron, Jade and Russ who all are drawn into the task of solving this murder mystery because only then, will they also solve the mysteries that lie in the deepest, darkest roots of their conscious.
The entire novel takes place in a small, quiet and dreary suburb on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado. It begins when a lovely teenager by the name of Lucinda Hayles is discovered dead one morning by an overnight janitor named Ivan. Lucinda’s neck has been cracked and her bloods stains the pale snow, and no footprints or signs of her murderer are anywhere close to her dead body by the time she is found close to a carousel.
Cameron seems to be one of the prime suspects because he is the weird, gangly boy whose obsession with watching people without their consent was his pastime. He loved Lucinda and knew her every flaw and bone line from his view through her bedroom windows. On the night Lucinda is murdered Cameron cannot recall his whereabouts when questioned by his mothers. As a result, he fears, along with many others, that he may have taken after his murderous father an in fact killed Lucinda and now has no memory of the fatal ordeal.
Jade is two years Cameron’s senior at Jefferson High School. She is cold, idle and refers to Lucinda as the “dead girl.” It is beyond her interest that Lucinda is dead because in the first place, Jade had wanted her gone. Lucinda was everything – pretty, sweet, carefree – that fat, disturbed, mean Jade would never be. To make matters worse, Lucinda played around with the boy that Jade loved, a French jock named Zap.
Russ is a lonely policeman who is assigned Lucinda’s case. Despite all the evidence pointing to Cameron he pulls all the strings, like a puppet, to convict anyone but Cameron. This includes his wife’s brother Ivan. Many years prior, on the eve that Cameron’s father, Lee, disappears Russ promises that he will, in all circumstances protect Cameron and his mother from any harm that may come his way. Despite Russ’s efforts to do good and bring justice to the Hayles’ family he cannot seem to bring himself peace. He is haunted by memories with Lee as well as his banal marriage with the possible suspect’s sister.
The plot twists in incongruent ways, rendering it compulsively confusing, but also uniquily hard to put down because I was always curious how one story or description would tie in with the rest. However, despite the interesting apporach the author took to this murder mystery revolving around the question “who killed Lucinda Hayles?”, it was difficult at times to distinguish the main plot, the murder, from the numerous secondary events such as Russ’s marriage, Jade’s abusive relationship with her mother, and Cameron’s sketchy memories of his father. There was simply too much going on – enough to tell a number of stories. Maybe if the book was expanded and written as a series, ending with the murderer, it would have been more successfully illustrated. This book is only about three hundred pages. By including accompanying situatons and introducing multiple outside characters including Cameron’s art teacher, Jade’s casual chitchats with the town’s homeless man, and the neighbors Lucinda used to babysit for, I became distracted from the novels purpose: “who’s the killer?”.
There are several moments of epiphany here. In the end, all the stories and brief background descriptions that are offered all finally come together which I admired. But the end is the end. How about the beginning, rising action, conflict, and resolution? Not to mention all the character descriptions, sideways stories, and questionable dialogues in all the other parts of the book? I continue to emphasize that too much is harmful for a strong story. This novel could have been a masterpiece, but with all the added stylistic elements and the self-reflective techniques that Kukafka experiments with, it is left piecemeal and utterly mind blowing, in the most negative sense of the phrase.
Something that I found entrancing about this novel, which caused me to rate it three stars rather than two was Kukafka’s use of language. If I am to speak of the novel as a set of phrases and sentences, without addressing their connections then I was overwhelmingly enchanted. She provides such evocative and eloquent descriptions of this suburban town. She enters into three distinctly troubled figures and explores their hidden demons. These complex characters each struggle to find their place in this dark reality and must confront the truth of Lucinda’s murder if they are ever to find bliss with the world. By creating characters of different genders, class, sexuality and generation the writer answers to questions of memory, privacy and compassionate love versus dangerous obsession. The alternating perspectives, again, regardless of the storyline, demonstrates Kukafka’s limitless understanding of the human condition in it’s most raw and extreme formation.
With a potentially masterful plot, but a dissatisfying presentation, yet a beautiful writing style, this book requires an introspective and patient reader. If one is looking for a straight-up “who did it” sort of work, I would suggest returning to our beloved Agatha Christie. However, if one is searching for an inventive, psychologically surreal approach to the issues motivating murder in a perhaps more shaded manner, then Girl in Snow would definitely be that exceptional read.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for this ARC and my extended apologies for this late, but still, as always, fully honest and unbiased review.