On Glaciers

It’s a rare treat these days to settle down with a good book and read purely for pleasure. Between working two jobs, attending grad school, and all the other demands of running a modest rowhome complete with husband, cat, and dog, I haven’t been able to indulge in fiction (or pleasurable nonfiction for that matter) nearly as much as I’d prefer. But in the midst of all the bustle, I completely relished my reading of Alexis M. Smith’s debut novel Glaciers, a delightful book that took barely two hours to finish. It was a perfect treat in fiction form.

Glaciers is all about Alaskan-native Isabel, a twenty-something living in Portland, Oregon who collects relics from the past. But Isabel’s affinity for thrift stores and vintage clothing is not the stuff of a passing trend; it is indicative of her enduring desire to explore the quiet histories of simple people, to forge a useful meaning out of long-forgotten items, to amass a collection of personal treasures. Much as she likes to dwell in the past, both her own and that of an era long before she was born, Isabel’s affection for a coworker at the Portland library is the present she most passionately wants to create. Glaciers is a novel about storytelling and memory, about the importance of what we make of both past and present.

Though Isabel’s story is a simple one, it is beautifully and poignantly told. Smith’s narration is straightforward and unpretentious, her characters effortlessly drawn and achingly real. Glaciers was reminiscent of Vendela Vida’s Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name in that I was completely captivated for those few short hours required to finish reading and also the film Spooner because it was so unassuming and unaffected, a piece of art that never tried to be more than it was.

I’ve heard quite a lot of good buzz about Glaciers and am so glad to have made the time to find out what it’s all about. It’s a thoughtfully crafted novel, but compact and precise enough to finish in just a day. I anticipate many more novels to treasure from Alexis M. Smith in the future and am sure to revisit the delightful Glaciers again soon.

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