In Light on Snow, 12-year-old Nicky Dillon and her father, Robert, struggle to set up a new life in a new place after having left New York two years earlier. Her father could no longer tolerate living in the city where Nicky’s mother and her infant sister, Clara, were killed in an auto accident, turning their world upside down.
One winter evening before Christmas, Nicky and her father take a walk in the woods behind their remote and isolated home. While walking, they hear a cry her father recognizes as a baby’s cry. They find an infant girl abandoned in the snow, wrapped in a sleeping bag. They rescue the baby and bring her to the local hospital. But they cannot leave behind their thoughts about the baby.
The mother of the baby, Charlotte, appears at the Dillon home, intending to thank them for saving the baby, but her arrival angers Nicky’s father while sparking a connection for Nicky who sees Charlotte as a replacement for her mother and the baby as a replacement for her sister. A storm isolates them, preventing Charlotte from leaving and putting Nicky and her father at risk of being considered her accomplices. Eventually, they both accept Charlotte’s explanation for the circumstances of the baby’s abandonment and begin thinking of themselves as her protector.
Both Nicky and her father need to find a way forward, first in the situation they find themselves harboring Charlotte, and then in life on their own. The encounter with Charlotte serves as a catalyst to break their pattern of hiding from life.
The novel raises questions about what it takes to make up a family. Are Nicky and her father a family? Or are they the remnants of a family that was broken when Nicky’s mother and sister died? Does a family need both a mother and a father? Can a broken family be fixed? Or are these questions about what makes up a family just devices to represent the denial Robert is still caught up in regarding the death of his wife and child?
The novel doesn’t answer these questions. But it catches the reader in its simple language, told from 12-year-old Nicky’s viewpoint, though 18 years later when Nicky had reached 30 years old. Is the story appropriate for a 12-year-old reader? I think so.
- Genre: Literary, Contemporary Fiction
- Print Length: 288 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (October 1, 2004)
- Publication Date: October 1, 2004