From bestselling Shreve (All He Ever Wanted, 2003, etc.), a curiously listless tale of a grieving dad and daughter who rescue a newborn abandoned in the snow.
Not long before Christmas 1983, 12-year-old Nicky Dillon and her father Robert, walking in the woods near their house in New Hampshire, stumble across a baby girl wrapped in a bloody towel, the remnants of her umbilical cord still attached. They race her to the hospital, she survives, and the police launch a hunt for the parents. The Dillons’ discovery opens the still-fresh wound inflicted on a mid-December day two years earlier when Nicky’s mother and one-year-old sister Clara were killed in a car crash. Robert fled Westchester with his daughter, hoping to escape their memories in rural isolation. When the infant’s 19-year-old mother turns up, he doesn’t want to have anything to do with her, but he finds he can’t turn her in either when a convenient fainting spell and blizzard trap Charlotte in their house. Looking back on these events at age 30—for no evident reason except to give us some reassuring flash-forwards at the close—Nicky mingles the gradual unfolding of Charlotte’s story (the rotten father exposed the baby and lied to her about it) with her memories of Mom and Clara and her worries about Dad. A sympathetic local detective’s gradual closing in on Charlotte provides the not-very-suspenseful plot movement. The whole tale seems contrived, right down to Nicky’s climactic, too-pat confrontation with her father. “Are you just trying to stay sad? To hold on to Mom and Clara?” do not seem like the insights of a 12-year-old. Everything is too easy here, including the fact that we never meet the boy who actually left the newborn to die, so readers can feel comfortably sorry for everyone without having to grapple with any messy moral issues.
One of this talented author’s lesser efforts, though fans will probably be satisfied by the readable prose and intelligent, albeit shallow, character observation.