||2012 Powell's Staff Top 5s
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. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
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.
"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
"Her story could be told in other people's things. The postcards and the photographs. A garnet ring and a needlepoint of the homestead. The aprons hanging from her kitchen door. Her soft, faded, dog-eared copy of Little House in the Big Woods. A closet full of dresses sewn before she was born. All these things tell a story, but is it hers?"
Isabel is a single twenty-something in Portland, Oregon, who repairs damaged books in the basement of the local library, dreaming of a life she can't quite reach. She is filled with longing--for a life in Amsterdam even though she's never visited, for the unrequited love of a coworker, for a simpler time from her childhood in Alaska among the threatened glaciers she loves, and for the perfect vintage dress to wear to a party that just might change everything.
Unfolding over the course of a single day, Alexis M. Smith's shimmering debut finds Isabel looking into her past--remembering her parents' separation and a life-changing encounter with a glacier--and shows us how fleeting, everyday moments can reveal an entire life. In classic movies, in old photographs and unsent postcards, rare books, and thrifted gems, Glaciers tells the story of a young woman's love of the past and a hope to make something new and all her own.
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.