But in Whiter Than Snow, author Sandra Dallas gives the reader such a full bodied, interesting, and sympathetic cast of characters that the avalanche which brings them together almost pales in comparison to their individual life stories.
The first three quarters of the novel, which is set in the 1920’s in a Swandyke, Colorado, a small mining town near the Tenmile Range, is devoted to introducing the characters/residents. Lucy and Dolly Patch, two sisters who have been estranged for years due to a devastating betrayal; Grace Foote, who carefully hides a dark secret beneath her elegant exterior; Joe Cobb, the town’s only black man, who has left his roots in Alabama to save his daughter; Essie Snowball (neé Esther Schnable), who works as a prostitute and hides her only child’s parentage from the rest of the world; and Minder Evans, an aged Civil War veteran who carries deep emotional scars from his days in battle.
Dallas allows each character’s story to take center stage for a while, so the reader becomes well acquainted with each one of these hardworking, loving, yet deeply flawed people. Then, one fateful afternoon as the town’s children are leaving school, a split of snow separates from the mountain high above town and comes crashing down, engulfing them in its path.
As you might guess, each one of our characters stands to lose the most precious thing in their world. They come together at this moment, and learn the power of forgiveness – not only of others, but also of oneself.
I’ve loved every one of Sandra Dallas’ historical novels, and this is no exception. Her love of the West permeates each one, and her devotion to historical detail and realism is spot-on. Her writing has a simplicity of style that perfectly evokes the era about which she writes, and her regional dialects are pitch perfect.