by Gregory Galloway
Anna Cayne, new girl in town, is as mysterious and complex as they come. She has a fondness for riddles and Houdini, and a gothic flair for ghost stories and writing obituaries. She showers her boyfriend, the unnamed narrator of the story, with postcards, cryptic letters and other bits of ephemera. She’s as unlike him as can be, but they’re happy together. A week before Valentine’s Day, Anna disappears. In a hole in the ice over the river, one of her dresses is found, folded neatly. But a body is never located, so her fate remains unknown. Her boyfriend becomes obsessed with finding her, but as he searches for clues he only turns up more questions, until only one dominates: How well did he really know Anna?
The reader doesn’t even know the name of the storyteller, and yet since he speaks directly to the audience there is intimacy. It forms a distant, uncertain closeness. The narrator comes across as very vanilla-bland – he is so focused on Anna and cataloging her strangeness and their precious few months together that he never reveals much about himself. We know that the spark has gone out of his parents’ marriage, his best friend is someone he isn’t close to anymore, and he’s got an older brother living out of town. But Anna’s boyfriend remains a nonentity, existing only to bring Anna to life.
I’m pretty nonplussed with the narrator; he’s merely a cipher to help crack the mystery of Anna’s fate. The whole book is scattered with potential clues, but the reader has to string them together as best he or she can because, frankly, the narrator’s a lousy detective and can’t figure anything out on his own. Yet I like this book, largely because I like Anna. I see a little of myself at that age in her. She lives inside her head, creating little teaser notes for her friends and family but never fully lets anyone in. She’s creative, playful, and sometimes emotional. Is she strong? I think to some readers, she will appear so, because she takes charge of her fate and charges forward without looking back. But depending on what you decide happened to her, you might find her weak instead. I waver back and forth.
A little weird, a little dark, a little noncommittal to definite answers, As Simple As Snow is anything but simple. I really enjoyed the mysterious atmosphere and the puzzle of Anna Cayne.
4 out of 5 stars
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