SNOW MAN by Carolyn Chute


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Another blast of proletarian rage from Chute, but lacking, regrettably, the solid characterizations that anchored Merry Men (1994) and The Beans of Egypt, Maine (1985). Generally considered a left-wing writer, Chute here declares herself “no-wing” [Acknowledgments] as she depicts the odyssey of a putative rightist from Maine whose heroes are Latin American guerrillas. Robert Drummond has assassinated US Senator Kip Davies in a Boston hotel; four fellow members of the Snow Men militia are dead, but the badly wounded Robert finds his way to the Beacon Hill home of another senator, liberal Jerry Creighton. He’s sheltered there by the Kristy Creighton, the senator’s daughter, and her mother, Connie, both of whom find the militia man as sexually irresistible as he is politically disturbing. The plot (never Chute’s strong point) consists basically of Robert’s convalescence over a month or so as he enlightens the privileged Creighton women about the ugly realities of American life and as the FBI closes in. In the past, Chute’s fiery denunciations of corporate capitalism’s impact on poor people have worked in tandem with strong fictional portraits. Here, the upper-middle-class Kristy and Connie are embarrassing clichÇs with insufficiently delineated inner lives; the spiritual crisis that has brought Kristy home from her job as chair of a women’s studies program, for example, is alluded to but never explained. Robert is a fuller character, and Chute commendably refuses to clean up his messy opinions (dead-on observations about the way politicians of all parties serve big business mixed with creepy diatribes against “this fuckin” socialist setup” and “arrogant bitch broad” feminists). But the novel’s politics are as incoherent as Drummond’s—making for an aesthetic and, arguably, a moral failure. Chute’s blunt class-consciousness and energetic prose are as bracing as ever. Let’s hope that the longer work-in-progress she refers to in the Author’s Note (—the ‘true story” of the ‘Militia Movement” in New England as I have experienced it—) makes better use of them.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-15-100390-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999


FictionMERRY MEN by Carolyn Chute
by Carolyn Chute