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The Snow Queenby Michael Cunningham
Cunningham's eagerly anticipated new novel follows two brothers as they struggle with creativity, spirituality, and mortality. The Snow Queen is an elegant, poignant meditation on identity and family that presents Cunningham at the top of his powers.
Synopses & Reviews
A darkly luminous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours
Michael Cunningham's luminous novel begins with a vision. Its November 2004. Barrett Meeks, having lost love yet again, is walking through Central Park when he is inspired to look up at the sky; there he sees a pale, translucent light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Barrett doesn't believe in visions — or in God — but he can't deny what he's seen.
At the same time, in the not-quite-gentrified Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tyler, Barrett's older brother, a struggling musician, is trying — and failing — to write a wedding song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Tyler is determined to write a song that will be not merely a sentimental ballad but an enduring expression of love.
Barrett, haunted by the light, turns unexpectedly to religion. Tyler grows increasingly convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers. Beth tries to face mortality with as much courage as she can summon.
Cunningham follows the Meeks brothers as each travels down a different path in his search for transcendence. In subtle, lucid prose, he demonstrates a profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of what lies at the core of the human soul.
The Snow Queen, beautiful and heartbreaking, comic and tragic, proves again that Cunningham is one of the great novelists of his generation.
"Two brothers grapple with aging, loss, and spirituality in this haunting sixth novel from the author of The Hours and By Nightfall. Barrett Meeks, a middle-aged retail worker with boyfriend troubles, is walking through Central Park one evening when he notices a mysterious light in the sky — a light he can't help but feel is 'apprehending ... as he imagined a whale might apprehend a swimmer, with a grave and regal and utterly unfrightened curiosity.' Uncertain what to make of his vision, Barrett returns to the Bushwick, Brooklyn, apartment he shares with his drug-addicted brother, Tyler, and Tyler's wife, Beth, whose cancer has come to dominate the brothers' attention. As ever, Cunningham has a way with run-on sentences, and the novel's lengthy monologues run the gamut from mortality to post-2000 New York City. But at its heart, Cunningham's story is about family, and how we reconcile our closest human relationships with our innermost thoughts, hopes, and fears. Tyler and Barrett have 'a certain feral knowledge of each other' and enjoy 'the quietude of growing up together.' They connect over Beth's illness, and contemplate the unique pressures of dying before one's time. 'Did Persephone sometimes find the summer sun too hot, the flowers more gaudy than beautiful?' Beth wonders. 'Did she ever, even briefly, think fondly of the dim silence of Hades?' Cunningham has not attempted to answer any of life's great questions here, but his poignant and heartfelt novel raises them in spades." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Like By Nightfall (2010), Cunningham's elegant and haunting new novel examines the complex dynamics among a couple and a brother. In this configuration, Barrett Meeks, a poetically minded man in his late thirties who has just been dumped by his most recent boyfriend via text message, shares a Brooklyn apartment with Tyler, his older musician-bartender brother, and Beth, Tyler's great love. Beth and Barrett work in Liz's vintage shop. She's 52; her current lover, Andrew, is 28. Beth is undergoing full-throttle treatment for cancer. Tyler is struggling to write the perfect love song for their wedding, and breaking his promise not to do drugs. Barrett, long afflicted by his flitting interest in everything, remains in an altered state after seeing a strangely animated "celestial light" over dark and snowy Central Park. As his characters try to reconcile exalted dreams and crushing reality, Cunningham orchestrates intensifying inner monologues addressing such ephemeral yet essential aspects of life as shifting perspectives, tides of desire and fear, "rampancy" versus "languidness," and revelation and receptivity. Tender, funny, and sorrowful, Cunningham's beautiful novel is as radiant and shimmering as Barrett's mysterious light in the sky, gently illuminating the gossamer web of memories, feelings, and hopes that mysteriously connect us to each other as the planet spins its way round and round the sun.” Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Michael Cunningham is the author of six novels, including A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours (winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize), Specimen Days, and By Nightfall, as well as Lands End: A Walk in Provincetown. He lives in New York.
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