Book Review: In The Falling Snow

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by Caryl Phillips

    Publication Date:
    List Price: $25.95
    Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
    Classification: Fiction
    ISBN13: 9780307272560
    Imprint: Knopf
    Publisher: Penguin Random House
    Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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    Book Reviewed by Thumper

    I have heard of Caryl Phillps. We have reviewed one of his earlier novels for in the past, but I had not read anything by him. Phillips's latest novel, In the Falling Snow, may be my first time reading the author, but it will not be the last. The novel is about a man going through a mid life crisis whose life is in shambles. Phillips writing is potent and fluid. While I love his writing style and the layout of the story, I did not love everything about the novel, specifically the main character. Conclusively, I came away from In the Falling Snow happily impressed.

    Keith Gordon, a single divorced man in his late 40s, has been accused of sexual harassment, on his job, by a woman he was dating. Keith was ordered to take some time off while an investigation into the allegations was under way. Now Keith can deal with issues in his life that previously did not have his full and undivided attention: his ex-wife Annabelle and their teenage son Laurie; and his strained relationship with his father Earl. There's an old commercial that uses the line, "Life is messy…clean it up". Keith will either clean up the messes of his life or he can stand there, knee deep in shit.

    In the Falling Snow is a wonderful book. As I stated earlier, I had not read any of Caryl Phillips works before and I'm feeling a little foolish about it. Phillips did more than create a storyline with a few interesting characters; he produced a story that had a mood, a rhythm, that was damn near hypnotic, as if John Coltrane's saxophone blowing a ballad was the soundtrack to a gray, cold winter city scene. I've always loved gray winter days. Phillips wrote a drama that did not have grand dramatic scenes with grand dramatic gestures instead there were small decisions, in an average, everyday life that altered the stream of it.

    Keith is the only character in the book that I did not understand or like. Keith is weak and directionless, like a ship with no anchor. He had a ho-hum attitude that was sickening. If I could have choked a turd out of him, I would have. He just goes through life with no real ambition or goals, no serious likes or dislikes. It's as if Keith is a visitor to his own life. Phillips earned a top grade with the character Annabelle, Keith's ex wife. I could feel her frustration with Keith. In all fairness to Keith, Phillips drew sides and textures to Keith that let me know that there were hints there is more to Keith than just a moving blob going through the motions.

    In the Falling Snow is a prime example of what my old college literature professor would have put on our class reading list. The novel shows that literature does not have to be sprinkled with $10 words or complex sentences that take 15 minutes to break down in order to get a thimble full of comprehension. In the Falling Snow is an examination of human nature inside a beautifully written story.

    Read Knopf’s description of In The Falling Snow.