Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House
Review copy received at SIBA
Nora Hamilton wakes up one cold, snowy morning in her home in the Adirondacks to find her husband, Brendan, absent from their bed. A careful search of their house leads Nora to the shocking discovery that he has committed suicide, leaving her devastated and asking the obvious question of “why?” In the haze of her grief, Nora devotes herself to the task of answering that very question. She is beyond surprised to learn that Brendan had kept many secrets from her, and as she begins unraveling the secrets of her husband’s life, she learns that his past is inexorably tied to the secrets of the small town she calls home.
I have to be upfront about something here, and that is that I met Jenny Milchman at SIBA this past September and I absolutely adored her. Which is why it breaks my heart to have to write about Cover of Snow because … well, I thought overall it was unsuccessful. I can definitely appreciate what she was trying to do with this novel, but unfortunately it just didn’t work for me.
The novel starts out with a bang, as Nora wakes from a peaceful, but dead-to-the-world slumber to find Brendan missing, and the concept is certainly promising, and when she finds her husband hanging, dead, I was definitely excited by where Milchman was going to take this strong start to the story and how she would run with it. It does get rocky from there, however, when Nora quickly learns some major facts about her husband’s life he had kept secret from her, as she learns them in very coincidental, incredibly improbable ways, and rather quickly following the discovery of her husband.
After the first 75 pages or so, I became hopeful for the novel to change my initial opinion (and skepticism) as things begin to pick up and the mystery started to become more interesting and mysterious. I found myself trying to figure out what was really going on in this small town, what was behind the facade of the perfect police department, and why on earth did Brendan have such a difficult and hostile relationship with his mother. I also found myself charmed by Nora’s relationship with her sister, Teggie, and while they went through something of a rough patch over the course of the novel, I liked the sisterhood dynamic, as it’s something I can relate to myself.
And to be honest, I was even somewhat impressed with the way Milchman resolved everything – the answers Nora found took a turn I wasn’t expecting and I did find creative. However, overall the beginning was really rough, the middle felt entirely too long, and there were so many aspects of the book I was trying to overlook because of how much I enjoyed the author and wanted desperately to like the book. The writing was clunky, the characters didn’t seem fully realized or at all complex, and the book didn’t always travel logically from point A to point B. I found myself confused a few times, lost by a discovery Nora made that didn’t make a ton of sense, and I couldn’t discern what anybody’s motivations were for much of anything until the absolute end.
I’m sad to write this because as I said earlier, Jenny Milchman is awesome! But sometimes books just don’t work for me, and this was one of those times. While the novel showed promise at certain points throughout, overall Cover of Snow was disappointing to me.