One hasty decision sets in motion decades of consequences for interconnected families in Colorado.
The ice didn’t hold, in 1974, on the night Sammy Henderson took a shortcut home. If it had, he would have kept his promise to 14-year-old Irene, pregnant with his baby—that he would marry her and she would finish school. Instead, Sammy drowned in the frozen river, which forced both Irene and Sammy's sister, Kathleen, to switch tracks and arrange an alternate future for the baby, Melanie. Fox (The Pull of It, 2016, etc.) pushes her story out from this central cluster of events like cracks spreading on a sheet of ice. Using seven voices to narrate their separate but overlapping experiences across the years, from 1974 to 2007, she builds up a vista of linked histories and emotional journeys. Marriages often split up, children are frequently raised by a single parent, and infidelities regularly occur. Grown-up Melanie has a job in Denver and a string of casual, married lovers. One of them, Brian, the son of the policeman who found Sammy’s body, is married to Jenny, who has met Melanie through work. These and other characters—Melanie’s stepfather, Jenny’s mother—add other facets, yet loneliness, departure, and a quest for some kind of fulfillment drive almost all of them. The men are generally more faithless than the women; the value of leaving or being left is debated. One touchstone is the reliably joyful friendship that endures between Kathleen and Irene, which warms and embraces Melanie, too. Fox delivers finely observed, lyrical, detached storytelling, persuasive in its depiction of everyday unions and choices, although her decision to interconnect some characters in a late, jarring encounter seems a coincidence too far. Yet this is eloquent tale-spinning lit by unshowy portraiture.
A small (too small?) world, but a perceptible talent.