Reviews of The Blizzard Party by Jack Livings

The Blizzard Party

by Jack Livings

The Blizzard Party by Jack Livings X
The Blizzard Party by Jack Livings
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2021, 416 pages

    Paperback:
    Feb 2022, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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About this Book

Book Summary

A panoramic novel set in New York City during the catastrophic blizzard of February 1978.

On the night of February 6, 1978, a catastrophic nor'easter struck the city of New York. On that night, in a penthouse in the Upper West Side's stately Apelles, a crowd gathered for a wild party. And on that night, Mr. Albert Haynes Caldwell―a partner emeritus at Swank, Brady & Plescher; Harvard class of '26; father of three; widower; atheist; and fiscal conservative―hatched a plan to fake a medical emergency and toss himself into the Hudson River, where he would drown.

In the eye of this storm: Hazel Saltwater, age six. The strange events of that night irrevocably altered many lives, but none more than hers. The Blizzard Party is Hazel's reconstruction of that night, an exploration of love, language, conspiracy, auditory time travel, and life after death.

Cinematic, with a vast cast of characters and a historical scope that spans World War II Poland, the lives of rich and powerful Manhattanites in the late 1970's, and the enduring effects of 9/11, Jack Livings's The Blizzard Party is an epic novel in the form of a final farewell.

1.

I am Hazel Saltwater, daughter of Erwin and Sarah Saltwater, a citizen of the borough of Manhattan, proprietor, researcher, part-time recluse, widow, fury, known to the waiters at Wavy Grain Bistro (formerly the Cosmic Diner) as Ms. Patel, known to the co-op board at the Apelles as a compliant and reliable neighbor, among resident children of same known to be a Halloween enthusiast, known to my dry cleaner Tio as a generous December tipper, to my acquaintances a person of pleasant demeanor, to my lenders an exemplary credit risk, to my friends a mystic, a crazy woman, an apopheniac, a rationalist, an open wound.

It is a gray morning. The men working on the building across the street have arrived with their coffee in paper cups and egg sandwiches wrapped in foil. They've staked out the stoop, draping themselves variously over the railing, across the steps, boots on balustrades, shooting the shit, their voices pinwheeling like kids in a schoolyard. The contractor's big Ford pickup, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The task Livings sets himself is a daunting one: how to weave all these uniquely striated lives and damaged psyches into a tapestry that forms a meaningful pattern. It is as if each character we meet in The Blizzard Party is a snowflake pulled from the blinding storm, set upon crushed black velvet and seen through a microscope, brilliantly and uniquely attenuated. How each of these snowflakes, so unique and ostensibly unconnected, swirl and crash into each other over the course of one wild night is a testament to Livings' ability to write a bold clincher...continued

Full Review (676 words).

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(Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski).

Media Reviews

Interview Magazine
Every so often, a novel comes along that manages to capture the glorious, demented cacophony of New York City life—one of high highs, low lows, love and paranoia and neighborly angst and bizarro weirdness—and The Blizzard Party does just that, reminding us of the strange breed of people called New Yorkers...Livings is a master prose stylist—his voice hilarious, playful, shouting to the rafters, blinking with ingenious descriptions.

New York Times
[A] raucously inventive tale of loss and erasure told with an authorial assurance uncommon in a first novel...this rollickingly bleak rendering of 1970s New York is well worth a visit.

San Francisco Chronicle
The Blizzard Party is an expansive, discursive novel that allows us into the minds of dozens of bit players at seemingly minor moments. That the author somehow manages to fit it all together, puzzle-like, by the end is a feat of acrobatic storytelling. But this is not a book that exists for the sake of the story. This is a book that exists for the sake of getting at the truth of being alive...[T]he writing can verge on navel-gazing and self-indulgence, pulling the reader away from whatever story line she is trying to keep track of.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[A] first novel that might be called a detour de force: sprawling, discursive, loose-limbed (and impressive...Livings may not quite have Wolfe's journalistic chops, but he's a far more skillful and empathetic novelist, and what seems moralistic and preening in Wolfe's books reads here mostly as playful and nimble...An exuberant, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink pleasure.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[B]rilliant...Livings calls to mind the work of Michael Chabon as he brings insight into the way events and circumstances shape his characters' lives. This is one to savor.

Booklist
[An] ambitious debut...[The Blizzard Party] features moments of brilliance, especially in the dialogue and the surprising connections. A literary feast.

Reader Reviews

Joseph Owens

Enveloping Masterpiece
This engaging work is most difficult to put aside. The Character Development is engrossing and the various facets of the central story are captivating.

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Beyond the Book

Impact of the Blizzard of 1978 on the Northeastern U.S.

Cars stopped on highway near Boston covered in snowJack Livings' debut novel The Blizzard Party revolves around an incident that occurs during the historic "Blizzard of '78," a massive storm that hit the northeastern United States February 5-7, 1978, burying New England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New York metropolitan area under feet of snow. (This was a particularly harsh winter, as a blizzard had also hit the Midwest about two weeks earlier.) Besides the historic snow totals, it was an extremely memorable storm both for its severity and for how ill-prepared area residents were for the impact.

From a meteorological perspective, the strength of the storm was unprecedented. The nor'easter registered hurricane-force 86 mph winds, with gusts up to 111 mph. In addition to the high ...

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