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Snapshots

by William Norris

Snapshots by William Norris
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2001, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2002, 304 pages

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Anonymous

Andrew
Snapshots tells the story of the Mahoneys, a
contemporary Irish-Catholic family from suburban New
Jersey. First time novelist William Norris draws a
convincing portrait of a nuclear family, one that will
especially resonate with readers who came of age in
suburban America between 1970 and 1990.

From 1997 to 1972 (the story is told in reverse
chronological order), family dynamics shift as sisters
bond, parents grow apart, and father and son fail to
understand each other. Although the story has no true
plot, Norris keeps the pace moving by employing a
quick-cut third person narrative that moves from the
perspective of one family member to another. In this
form, Norris skillfully presents a tender character
study of all six family members.

Norris's portrayal of the Mahoneys is heartfelt
without being overly sentimental. In a scene from the
"1975" chapter, eight year old Sean Mahoney's older
sister Patty tells him that in the woods near the
family home there is a magical circle where elves live
and have parties. Together, they go to the site one
day after school and what Sean sees makes him believe
in his older sister even more than he had before their
journey into the woods. Norris treats the scene with
great restraint, never giving in to a sentimental
impulse, or otherwise intruding on this real, quiet
moment between brother and sister.

Norris gives all the characters unique, bold voices
that hold consistent throughout the years. For
example, in the first chapter we meet the eldest
daughter Kate at age 35. When we see her as a
teenager a few chapters later, she is instantly
recognizable and it makes perfect sense that this girl
will grow into the woman that the reader knows her to
be.
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