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Glaciers (Tin House New Voice)by Alexis Smith
Alexis Smith's diminutive novella lies somewhere between poetry and prose. So lyrical and so delicate, Glaciers slowly unspools as we follow Isabel on a routine day. Her inner life is rich and minutely detailed, and even though she is alone, her world seems full and ripe. On this day she reflects on her childhood in Alaska, the divorce of her parents, her unrequited love for an ex-soldier, and the beautiful vintage ephemera to which she is so drawn. This book is deceptively simple and small, and at the same time so deeply felt. Smith wields her pen with subtlety and skill and produces a story with a heart as big as a glacier.
Alexis M. Smith's novella, Glaciers, is a magical book with great depth and feeling despite its simple, spare sentences. Over the course of one day, Isabel, the protagonist, weaves a story filled with childhood memories and details about her life in Portland, including her crush on coworker Spoke. Although Glaciers can easily be read in one sitting, the experience is as satisfying as reading a full-length novel.
Glaciers is a perfect little jewel of a book. It narrates a single day in the life of Isabel, a 20-something who loves Portland and comfortably inhabits the city. Smith's prose is so evocative — you can hear the clink of the spoon on the glass and taste the honey in the tea. A peaceful, contemplative read.
Synopses & Reviews
Isabel is a single, twenty-something thrift-store shopper and collector of remnants, things cast off or left behind by others. Glaciers follows Isabel through a day in her life in which work with damaged books in the basement of a library, unrequited love for the former soldier who fixes her computer, and dreams of the perfect vintage dress move over a backdrop of deteriorating urban architecture and the imminent loss of the glaciers she knew as a young girl in Alaska.
Glaciers unfolds internally, the action shaped by Isabel's sense of history, memory, and place, recalling the work of writers such as Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, and Virginia Woolf. For Isabel, the fleeting moments of one day can reveal an entire life. While she contemplates loss and the intricate fissures it creates in our lives, she accumulates the stories — the remnants — of those around her and she begins to tell her own story.
"Smith's debut unspools in delicate links of linear thought, told (mostly) in deceptively simple sentences embedded in the consciousness of Isabel, born in the Pacific Northwest and raised in Alaska with her older sister. Isabel dreams of Amsterdam and, 'though she has never been, and probably will never go,' she believes everything is perfect there. The story ostensibly covers a single day, but Isabel's recorded memories reach back to childhood, with incidents in between like a camping trip, an interaction with an astrologer, and a consequential encounter with an immense glacier. Isabel's love of books leads her to get a job at the library, where she falls for co-worker 'Spoke,' an Iraq war veteran whose sudden re-enlistment casts a long shadow, turning Isabel introspective at the festive party she'd planned to attend with him: 'Spoke is already halfway across the country, where people are making breakfast, letting dogs out onto dewy lawns, boarding busses and trains for downtowns, lining up in coffee shops,' she thinks, while 'n Amsterdam, it is already a lovely afternoon, the leaves turning, fall about to break.' This slim book's lovely design respects and enhances Smith's voice, with ample white space on every page and a general eschewing of commas and quotation marks. Lyrical and luminous." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"An Alaska childhood and dreams of faraway cities such as Amsterdam inform Alexis M. Smiths Glaciers, a delicate debut novel set in Portland, Oregon — 'a slick fog of a city...drenched in itself' — that reveals in short, memory-soaked postcards of prose a day in the life of twenty-something library worker Isabel." ELLE Magazine
"Glaciers, Alexis Smith's brilliant debut novel, is filled with kaleidoscopic pleasures. Using prose as clear as pure, cold air, Smith moves the narrative vertically as well as horizontally, each ticking minute yielding more insights into a young woman's life revealed over one single day. The past, present, and imaginary future stream into beautifully unstable geometries: Isabel's childhood snows from her youth in Alaska are juxtaposed against her adult trip to a vintage thrift store; her hopes for an evening party push against the echoes of war that haunt a young soldier whom she loves. Line by line, in and out of time, this is a haunted, joyful, beautiful book — a true gift." Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!
"Alexis M. Smith's Glaciers is a quietly powerful fairy tale. Smith's voice, patient and understated and precise captures the poetry of loss and longing." Cara Hoffman, author of So Much Pretty
"Glaciers is a carefully precise and beautiful meditation on one young woman's restless heart. It resonates like a haunting postcard from someone else's life." Kevin Sampsell, author of A Common Pornography
About the Author
Alexis M. Smith grew up in Soldotna, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington. She received an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. She has written for Tarpaulin Sky and Powells.com. She has a son and two cats, and they all live together in a little apartment in Portland, Oregon. Glaciers is her first novel.
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