Genres: Literary, Psychological
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.
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.
Introspective story of just one day.
My Thoughts on Glaciers
What a remarkable little book. A debut story from an author who finally illustrated lyrical writing for me. It’s a quiet story, telling the story of just one day, but when I was finished, I thought, what would just one day of my life say about me?
Now, before I go any further, I have to say that there is one thing about this book that really bugs me: dialogue not in quotation marks. Ugh. It’s a preference thing, I know, but it’s a hot-button for me. I just hate it when an author writes in dialogue, but doesn’t punctuate it as such!
So, that said, I can move on to what I really liked about the story. The character of Isabel was very well drawn . . . without having a paint-by-number picture, you know? She was outlined by her memories and filled in with descriptions of her visits to thrift shops and shaded and contoured by her work and interactions. I really felt like I could relate to Isabel, even in such a slim work of fiction.
Then, of course, there’s this quote:
“Before Isabel could read, she loved books.”
Well, what’s not to like about a book that contains a sentence like that! But, wait, there’s more. Isabel is real and accessible to the reader. How she has put together her home, how she chose her job, even the dynamics of her admiration of/unrequited love for her co-worker, Spoke. All of the other characters in the book are introduced through the filter of Isabel and it’s a good filter.
Quietly powerful, memorable, and bittersweet; this book is a keeper.
“She remembers sitting in an armchair with Agnes reading the nature encyclopedia, screaming over and over again, first with fright, then glee, when they turned to the magnified pictures of spiders. Her sister read that spiders have book lungs, which fold in and out over themselves like pages. This please Isabel immensely. When she learned later that humans do not also have book lungs, she was disappointed. Book lungs. It made complete sense to her. This way breath, this way life: through here.“