Published by Straus and Giroux on May 6, 2014
Source: Received from Publisher
A darkly luminous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Hours
Michael Cunningham’s luminous novel begins with a vision. It’s November 2004. Barrett Meeks, having lost love yet again, is walking through Central Park when he is inspired to look up at the sky; there he sees a pale, translucent light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Barrett doesn’t believe in visions—or in God—but he can’t deny what he’s seen.
At the same time, in the not-quite-gentrified Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tyler, Barrett’s older brother, a struggling musician, is trying—and failing—to write a wedding song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Tyler is determined to write a song that will not be merely a sentimental ballad but an enduring expression of love.
Barrett, haunted by the light, turns unexpectedly to religion. Tyler grows increasingly convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers. Beth tries to face mortality with as much courage as she can summon.
Cunningham follows the Meeks brothers as each travels down a different path in his search for transcendence. In subtle, lucid prose, he demonstrates a profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of what lies at the core of the human soul. The Snow Queen, beautiful and heartbreaking, comic and tragic, proves again that Cunningham is one of the great novelists of his generation.
I found the The Snow Queen a precariously balanced novel that shows a short glimpse into the lives of two brothers Barret and Tyler. We first meet Barret as he walks along the park at night and sees a vision of light that could be almost be compared to a spiritual experience or possibly an awaking within. He holds this nugget to himself and withholds it from his brother Tyler. Later this almost seems to be the wedge what pushes the two from one to two separate paths later in life. I sometimes found Barret’s thoughts convoluted to the point I wanted him to just stop thinking and try living life instead. I had trouble relating to someone who felt comfortable floating through life instead of feeling that purpose can drive us and give meaning.
One other side we had Tyler, who pushed his creative visions to the limit with the help or should I say hindrance of drugs. I felt he also struggled with caring for someone who is physically being ravaged by cancer and at the same time loved him unselfishly when he did not even love himself. At times I felt there may have been an underlining statement with Tyler’s short bursts of political dialogue but I failed to see or feel the connection this had within the story.
The story flows with jagged turns and twists of fate. What once started out as a story of two brothers ends at the starting point of two individuals. This novel by Michael Cunningham definitely pushes you to think how differently others perceive life. At times I thought they almost dwelled too deeply on the depths of life and fate. Sometimes a light is just a light.