By: Alexis M. Smith
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
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.
I honestly found out about this book from a Huffington Post article that appeared on my feed a few months ago. There’s plenty of great books that slip under the radar, and by the sounds of the article this book was one of them. Reading the premise, it felt like my kind of novel, so I immediately added it to my wish-to-read. After having it sit on my wishlist for some time, I finally decided to pick it up. On a related note, isn’t the book cover so cute? 😀
All of the blurbs and online reviews keep mentioning about how this book is a delicate and subtle read. Well…it’s all very true. The author captures a lot of the feelings and thoughts running through Isabel and her thoughts and ideas in a few sentences. It’s a very slim novel but it captures everything quite wonderfully and in a way that no other words are needed. It also handles much of the stream-of-consciousness element and themes of memory and history, self and place, much better than another book I had read recently, Paris (review).
The novel itself follows Isabel over the course of a day: her day at work, her attraction to her co-worker Spoke, her ideas, her memories, what intrigues her about finding things at thrift shops. The reader learns a lot about Isabel’s childhood, growing up in Alaska, over the course of 174 pages; by the end of the book I got a very good sense of who she was a character. And I felt I could relate to her in some ways, she’s got such an imagination. Her quiet connection to Spoke was really sweet, was rooting for them to pull through.
There’s not much else I can say about this novel except that I highly recommend Glaciers. It’s short and quiet but subtle and wonderful in its own way.