At times, this book reads like a card trick. And I like card tricks. Though she reveals two of her hole cards early, the sheer length of the book makes you certain that Ivey has more. The last, though inevitable, takes longer to unfold and is quite moving in its way.

Ivey evokes Alaska with her graceful language and populates it with just enough characters to keep the drama moving. There were times when its small cast made me wonder if Ivey has some background in theatre.

There’s a key bit of parallelism here, but Ivey makes her characters aware of it, so it doesn’t come off as contrived for the sake of the fiction. In the end, the book is sweet and, as with the card tricks comparison, I don’t intend that to be mean. I could have done without the Epilogue, but perhaps Ivey wanted to strike a different note than the one that existed at the end of the novel itself – a more hopeful one.

Ivey should proceed cautiously with her next book. She can write, though I longed to tighten her prose, but she can’t go back to the fairy tale well again. Or at least not right away.

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