A Novel

Book - 2012
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"Isabel is a single, twentysomething 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."--from cover, p. [2]
Publisher: Portland, Or. : Tin House Books ; Berkeley, Calif. : Distributed to the trade by Publishers Group West, 2012
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9781935639206
Characteristics: 174 p. ; 19 cm
Alternative Title: Glaciers


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KimmyRose Dec 12, 2016

I liked the idea of this story more than the story itself. I liked its theme of valuing stories, honouring the power they hold.

Ironically(?), there is a thick, frosted sheet of glass over all the characters in this book and their individual stories. The effect, I think, was partly created by the dialogue choice: it's entirely made up of a distancing stream-of-consciousness summary style.

The other narrative technique of short descriptions of Isobel's past alternating with short descriptions of her present did nothing to deepen the relationship of reader to character. It was like a big ol' boring journal of telling. The (too many) people that come in and out of Isobel's life are only offered superficially. I don't feel as if I truly got to know a single one of them, to feel for them, to care for them. They were all displayed behind that impenetrable glass wall, where I could see what they were DOING but not clear enough to see what they were feeling.

I especially felt distanced from Spoke, the male "love" interest. Why did he even like Isobel romantically? Why did she like him? Their encounters, although lovely and promising of a powerful connection, were unbelievably brief for any serious commitment.

And perhaps the biggest problem: there is no narrative tension. It's just so... mellow. So mellow, I did not care or commit.

The biggest reaction I had was mild annoyance from two personal triggers. (So, these are not narrative criticisms.) Spoke, a kind, gentle soul, perpetuates war and killing by returning for another tour with the army. (I don't care which country's army: they're all the same, the only difference being where the pitiable soldiers happened to be born.) His reasons didn't fly for me. The whole thing, a huge plot point, seemed incongruous with the rest of what I grasped as his character. And, while I understand, I don't relate to Isobel's extreme prioritization of MATERIAL "stuff" as a means to capture stories.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 03, 2016

Delightful. Charming. Delicate. These are the words that first come to mind as I reflect on Glaciers. There's not much substance in these 174 pages, but I was nonetheless happy to have spent the time with them. In many of the novel's short chapters, Alexis M. Smith discusses the small things, the photos and relics Isabelle cherishes; with superb skill, Smith has crafted each chapter with the same vivid detail and want for nostalgia that these photos conjure.

There are some really wonderful sentences in this short work. And the characters, though we barely get to know them, are fresh and interesting. The story is enough to keep moving forward, though it is sparse. But I don't think the focus here should be on story. It's about images. Glaciers is a box of photographs. Sift through them. Pick out your favorites. And make up your own story to fill in what little you know.

CRMundy Oct 08, 2015

This is a gem of a poetic novel to be read again and again, and gaining something new with each read.

Jul 13, 2015

So short and sweet, it's like candy floss disappearing in your mouth. Really the length of a novella, it's one day in the life of the main character plus snippets of stories about growing up. She collects post cards and each chapter is a little postcard. Every line counts.

Elizabeth512 Mar 14, 2015

This is what I read that interested me in the book

Mar 26, 2013

This novel is set in Portland, OR & is just lovely.

Jul 11, 2012

The setting is Pacific Northwest and anything set locally almost guarantees I'll at least give it a try. I love being able to say, "I've been there!" or for the text to evoke a similar feeling for the character and myself. The sweet little vignettes of chapters actually grew on me throughout the novel as well as the sparse writing style. There's no quotation marks on the dialogue so that it flowed quite smoothly. Isabel works in a library cataloging damaged books, crushes on her ex-soldier co-worker and frequents vintage shops and vegetarian asian eateries. I wish the book had been longer, but actually the little bits that we get of the characters strike just the right chord in your heart that you are left smiling nostalgically at the bittersweet ending. I highly recommend it (and since it's so short it's perfect for one morning, afternoon or evening when you have a bit of downtime and can read it in one sitting)


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