This one can rightly be called a novella at a scant 113 pages (print) or 83 (Nook). However, I was truly amazed at the quality and nuance and sheer amount of storytelling Alexis M. Smith crammed into such a short work of fiction.
Isabel, the protagonist, is a 20-something who works in restoration at a library. She has a secret crush on a co-worker, Spoke, who is out of the military. The narrative hops back and forth between one day in Isabel's life--working, having lunch, shopping for a dress, preparing for a party--and her childhood memories of growing up with her parents in Alaska.
It's such a simple premise, but there's so much going on. Isabel is a collector of stories. Since childhood she's loved picking out postcards and old photos and buying just the right one and thinking through what the people's lives must've been like. She shops in thrift stores and is thoughtful and introspective and somewhat shy and just lovely.
I don't want to give too much away, because if I do, I've ruined the whole novella for you. But essentially, Isabel has to think through and work through other people's stories in order to begin telling her own. It's by imagining the stories of others, and examining her own experiences, that she really begins to establish her own identity.
Tin House Books. I used to read issues of the Tin House literary journal in the bookstore when I was in my early 20s. They publish short fiction and poetry in the journal, and I don't think they'd started publishing when I was reading.
I remember buying one particular issue when I was young: #33 Fantastic Women. It had a short story in it that absolutely knocked me over. For the life of me, I can't remember the author's name, but I remember the story and the way it made my head spin a little. I'm really glad I read Glaciers and started thinking about Tin House and how profoundly that particularly story affected me. I'll be re-purchasing the issue since it's long gone--lost in one of my moves.
There was also this unknown writer--Aimee Bender--in this particular issue. Tongue firmly in cheek. I had no idea who she was back then, and now I'm obsessed with her work. :)
Reading Glaciers was a pleasure, and I'm so glad I got to explore some of my own memories in the process of reading it.
Video review (much gushing)...
Pub. Date: January 2012
Publisher: Tin House Books
Source: Purchased by moi!