Christina Bartolomeo's SNOWED IN is the tale of Sophie Quinn and her search for true happiness. Her husband, Paul Stoddard, gets transferred to Maine for a temporary one-year assignment, and so Sophie and Paul uproot themselves from their comfortable life in Washington, D.C. to the colder unknown world of Portland.
The book opens in October, and Sophie is dealing for the umpteenth time with their landlord, Donald, who is pretty much good for nothing except to collect the rent. "Courage is not my leading virtue," the first chapter opens. "I always avoided change of any sort...I married a ‘safe' man." With these words, the reader is immediately made aware that Sophie, who has always been one to take the easy way out, is forced to go through a major change by moving to Maine with her husband. Dealing with the landlord is not in her repertoire. She is not a confrontational person, but with Paul too busy and Sophie home all day, she has no choice but to put aside her fears and work things out with Donald. The reader will also suspect that something is not completely right with her marriage.
Sophie does her best to adjust to their new home, because she loves her husband (she thinks) and believes in doing her part to keep things moving along. In the meantime, Donald is frustrating her already upside-down life by being unable (or unwilling) to fix the simplest things in their apartment, such as the heater on this cold October morning, and Paul is beginning to spend less time with her and more time at work. Life is not looking good at this point.
The first chapter sets the tone of SNOWED IN right away. It is lighthearted and reads almost like today's popular "Chick Lit" books. However, once the reader becomes further involved in the story, they will realize that there is a lot more depth to SNOWED IN than a typical "Chick Lit" book. As Sophie proceeds day by day, trying to get into the spirit of living in what she sees as a God-forsaken place, the reader watches her slowly transform from an insecure woman to someone who finds her place in the world.
The characters who populate SNOWED IN are the main reason to read this work. They could easily be found in an Annie Proulx or Richard Russo novel. The various characters, such as Donald the landlord and the members of Sophie's walking club, add to the novel by allowing the reader to become involved in Sophie's everyday life. They are normal, not-so-perfect people --- funny, offbeat, lovable, or just plain interesting. They enrich the novel as much as the plot.
Sophie isn't sitting at home twiddling her thumbs when she's not out walking. She does artwork for a college friend, who takes these paintings and creates greeting cards. Sophie doesn't have much faith in her art, but this is one thing that keeps her going during the cold Maine winter.
What also has her occupied is her ex-boyfriend Rory, who was at one point the love of her life until he decided not to leave his fiancée for Sophie and instead married his betrothed, leaving Sophie with a broken heart. It is now five years, and he is back in her life; with her own marriage failing, she feels this is one area of her life that needs closure.
On the other hand, there is Sophie's new friend Ned and his gay brother, Stephen. She doesn't find Ned attractive, at least not at first, but he becomes a comfort to her while she wonders if her marriage can be saved.
Through her narration, one will see how Sophie grows from a rather introverted, fatalistic, unsociable person to one who begins looking forward to seeing her new friends and getting to know her new hometown. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. By the time one finishes reading SNOWED IN, they will be cheering for Sophie and hope she gets that happy ending she deserves.
Written with wit and style, SNOWED IN will become one of this reviewer's favorite books of 2004.
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton on January 23, 2011
- Publication Date: September 15, 2005
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
- ISBN-10: 0312320892
- ISBN-13: 9780312320898