Michael Cunningham's luminous novel begins with a vision. It's November 2004. Barrett Meeks, having lost love yet again, is walking through Central Park when he is inspired to look up at the sky; there he sees a pale, translucent light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Barrett doesn't believe in visions - or in God - but he can't deny what he's seen.
At the same time, in the not-quite-gentrified Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tyler, Barrett's older brother, a struggling musician, is trying - and failing - to write a wedding song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Tyler is determined to write a song that will be not merely a sentimental ballad but an enduring expression of love.
Barrett, haunted by the light, turns unexpectedly to religion. Tyler grows increasingly convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers. Beth tries to face mortality with as much courage as she can summon.
Cunningham follows the Meeks brothers as each travels down a different path in his search for transcendence. In subtle, lucid prose, he demonstrates a profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of what lies at the core of the human soul.
The Snow Queen, beautiful and heartbreaking, comic and tragic, proves again that Cunningham is one of the great novelists of his generation.
The Snow Queen
A celestial light appeared to Barrett Meeks in the sky over Central Park, four days after Barrett had been mauled, once again, by love. It was by no means his first romantic dropkick, but it was the first to have been conveyed by way of a five- line text, the fifth line of which was a crushingly corporate wish for good luck in the future, followed by three lowercase xxx's.
During the past four days, Barrett had been doing his best to remain undiscouraged by what seemed, lately, to be a series of progressively terse and tepid breakups. In his twenties, love had usually ended in fits of weeping, in shouts loud enough to set off the neighbors' dogs. On one occasion, he and his soon- to- be- ex had fought with their fists (Barrett can still hear the table tipping over, the sound the pepper mill made as it rolled lopsidedly across the floorboards). On another: a shouting match on Barrow Street, a bottle shattered (the words "falling in love" still suggest, ...
At its core, The Snow Queen is about searching: for clarity, miracles, faith, love, and meaningful work. Despite some flaws, the book is a sensitively rendered story in which significance, even hope, might be found in a stunning night sky yet also may be present closer to home, just waiting to be discovered.
(Reviewed by Suzanne Reeder).
Full Review (1110 words).
In The Snow Queen, Michael Cunningham sets many scenes in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick, an area that's still working toward revitalization after decades of economic strife and urban turbulence.
Bushwick and the areas now known as Williamsburg and Greenpoint were originally one Dutch settlement, the Town of Bushwick. The land was officially chartered by Governor Peter Stuyvesant in 1660 and called Boswijck, which means heavy woods.
The area was rural until the 1850s. The former Town of Bushwick then merged with the City of Brooklyn in 1855. Afterward, population doubled and tripled every 20 years. Varying industry — including shipping, oil, pottery, and clothing — thrived along the waterfront and attracted ...
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