THE SNOW BIRCH by John Mantley


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There are gentler passages in this story of a boyhood in the wilderness which the publishers compare (and will promote heavily) to The Yearling but for the most part these give way- as does the general character of the book- to the more savage and sanguinary closing scenes. To the Canadian woods, to farm, Tom Sharron takes his wife Mary- and their small boy Robbie, a sensitive youngster, who cannot accept killing as the natural law of existence- and a venison hunt has its emotional repercussions. Tom Sharron dies, in a forest fire, and Mary, alone with the boy, accepts the help of Fred Carter, as a hired hand, a grim, taciturn, coarse man- an indefatigable worker and before long dedicated to Mary. People talk and force his proposal, and her acceptance of it, but there are increasingly vicious scenes between them; Mary does not hide her physical distaste for Fred- and is passionately defensive of Robbie; Robbie is resentful; and Fred- who drinks when insecure- can be ugly and brutal. It is an understanding country doctor who helps to explain them- to themselves- and each other- after Mary loses a baby (Fred thinks deliberately) and Fred rescues her under seemingly impossible circumstances.... A blowy drama of the northwoods, this is lashed by the furies of the natural world (fire and flood and wind) as well as the personal demons of a proud woman, a bitter man, and it is all very forthright. The publishers are backing this as their leading spring novel- so it is to be watched.

Pub Date: April 29th, 1958
Publisher: Dutton