Chapters 1-2 Summary
Snow in August (1997) is Pete Hamill’s eighth novel. In this story, protagonist Michael Devlin, an eleven-year-old boy, struggles to understand the death of his father in World War II as well as the atrocities he discovers in his own 1946 Brooklyn neighborhood. According to Robert Lipsyte, writing for The New York Times Book Review, the story of Michael Devlin is told in Hamill’s characteristically “blunt, didactic, pleasing style” but with a pinch of “magic.”
At the opening of the novel, Michael wakes up to his darkened bedroom, which is shrouded in a December cold. He says he can describe every item in his room without opening his eyes. Michael’s most cherished possession is the Captain Marvel comic book laying on the floor, where he put it before falling asleep the night before. In the absence of his father, a war victim, Captain Marvel is Michael’s mentor and hero. Michael also has a stack of Captain Marvel comic books on top of the metal cabinet next to his door.
Despite the darkness, Michael senses a strange bright light that is attempting to seep into his room from behind the heavy, pulled shade. The morning is too early and his room is too cold for him to investigate this light. He longs to be in the kitchen, where he expects to find warmth, so he hurries there without opening the shade. When he arrives at the kitchen, he sees the blizzard raging outside the front windows. It is the biggest snowstorm Michael has ever seen.
Michael knows he could use the storm as an excuse not to go outside. However, he is an altar boy who is expected to attend the eight o’clock Mass. Michael wonders, would his father have shirked from his duty as a soldier because of a storm? Would Captain Marvel be afraid of a little snow? Would Father Heaney forgive him for not showing up to help the priest serve Mass? Michael knows that no matter how terrible the conditions are outside, he...
(The entire section is 563 words.)
Chapters 3-5 Summary
When Michael arrives at the church, he finds Father Heaney looking as if he wished he had stayed in bed. His face is unshaven and his gray hair is uncombed. He has little to say to Michael, but this is normal. Father Heaney is a man of few words.
The priest rushes through the Mass, as usual. There are only two old women in the pews. Michael cannot imagine how the old women made their way through the blizzard; he recalls how hard the wind was blowing and how much difficulty he had walking through the storm. After the services, Father Heaney finally asks Michael how he got to the church and is amazed that the boy walked so far. He tells Michael to offer up the suffering he endured from the snow and wind to the other poor souls who were suffering even more than he had. Michael tells the priest that he had already done that while the priest was saying Mass. Michael had other thoughts, too, during the service, including the old rabbi who had asked—begged—for Michael’s help in turning on the lights. Although Michael does not understand why the man could not turn the lights on himself, he is glad he chose to assist the man. When Michael finally leaves the church, he hears a voice in the wind. It is the sound of the old rabbi saying, “Please to help.” The voice haunts Michael as he walks home.
Later that day, the wind and snow finally stop. After the storm ceases, people come out of their apartments. Michael runs out to meet some of his friends. Sonny Montemarano is there when Michael goes outside. The two boys are amazed by the amount of snow that has fallen in their neighborhood. They exchange stories. Michael tells Sonny about his journey to the church earlier that morning. Sonny says that his front door was frozen shut. He had to jump through a window to get out. Jimmy Kabinsky eventually joins them. Jimmy is a recent immigrant from Poland. He lost his parents in the war and now lives with his uncle, who is a strange, ugly man,...
(The entire section is 705 words.)
Chapters 6-7 Summary
The next day, Sonny and Jimmy go to Michael’s home to make sure Michael understands that they did not abandon him at Mr. G’s candy store when Frankie McCarthy assaulted the store owner. They tell Michael they had no choice. Frankie and his gang were looking for them, and they were forced to hide. Michael tells his friends this is what he assumed. He did not want to think otherwise.
Michael tries to comfort his friends by telling them that he does not believe Frankie is looking for them anymore; therefore, they have nothing to worry about. But Sonny has his doubts. It was obvious to Sonny that the police were still looking for Frankie or anyone who could tell them anything about the beating. Jimmy says he saw the police go to Frankie’s house. Michael states that he hopes the police put Frankie in jail. Sonny warns Michael that he better not say that to anyone else. If he does, he might be marked as someone who “squeals”—someone who identifies criminals to the police. If word should get out in the neighborhood that Michael talked to the police, Frankie and his gang would cut his face from the corner of his lips to his ears to make it known that he had a big mouth, Sonny says. He advises Michael to say he saw nothing if the police should ask him any questions.
Michael does not believe it is right for Frankie to get away with beating Mr. G. In contrast, Jimmy and Sonny dismiss the beating Mr. G. suffered. They say that, after all, Mr. G. is just a “Jew.” Jimmy says all Jews should be punished for killing Jesus. Michael attempts to make his friends look at the situation with more logic. He reminds them that Jesus lived a long time ago. Mr. G. had nothing to do with Jesus’ death. The boys, however, have heard too many prejudiced statements against Jews in general and will not listen to Michael.
Michael tells his friends about how he helped the rabbi. When Jimmy hears this, he tells Michael that he had better...
(The entire section is 598 words.)
Chapters 8-9 Summary
A few weeks after the attack on Mr. G., Michael sees a truck outside the candy store. Mr. G.’s sons are carrying furniture and cartons out of the store and loading them into the truck. Michael watches the truck drive away. None of the neighbors came to say good-bye to Mr. G.’s family. No one asked about Mr. G.’s health. There was no word about Frankie McCarthy’s having been caught for assaulting the old candy store owner. Mr. G.’s sons do not turn back to look at the store as they drive away.
In the meantime, Michael further develops his relationship with Rabbi Hirsch. Michael often visits the man and enjoys listening to the rabbi’s stories, mostly of the history of Jews and of Prague, where the rabbi grew up.
When Michael runs into his friends on the street, they often question him about what he found out about the synagogue. They wonder if Michael has discovered anything about the treasure they suspect the rabbi has hidden. Michael insists that there is nothing to find out. He tells his friends that the rabbi appears poorer than they are. His clothes are ragged and he lives a very modest life. Sonny insists that the rabbi is disguising his wealth. Another probability is that the rabbi does not even know about the treasure, Sonny tells Michael. Michael is embarrassed that just a few days before, he had thought the same thing. Sonny then tells Michael that he should keep his eyes open every time he visits the rabbi. He should take note of any signs the rabbi exhibits in reference to keeping secrets.
Michael does not respond to Sonny’s suggestions. This makes Michael feel guilty. He has grown to like the rabbi. He enjoyed his conversations with the old man. Rabbi Hirsch talks to Michael as if he were an adult. However, Michael also appreciates his friendship with Sonny. He has known Sonny since the first grade and does not want to have to choose between Sonny’s trust and his new relationship with the rabbi....
(The entire section is 598 words.)
Chapters 10-11 Summary
Michael is home by himself one morning when he hears a knock on the door. He answers it and finds two detectives standing there. After the detectives make their way inside, they begin to question Michael about the attack on Mr. G. They tell Michael that Mr. G. is still in the hospital with a fractured skull. They do not know if Mr. G. will ever recover. They also tell Michael that they have heard rumors he had been in the candy store on the day of the assault.
When Michael denies knowing anything about the attack on Mr. G., the detectives remind Michael that, as a Catholic, he must know it is a sin to tell a lie. They pressure Michael further by telling him that if he does not come forward as a witness they cannot...
(The entire section is 542 words.)
Chapters 12-14 Summary
One afternoon while walking down a narrow alley, Michael feels someone hit him on the back and then grab him. When Michael turns around and sees Frankie McCarthy. Frankie has been following Michael and wants to know why Michael spends so much time inside the synagogue. Michael tells him that he has been teaching the rabbi how to speak English. Frankie is suspicious. He asks Michael if he told the rabbi what happened to Mr. G. Michael says he has not. Then Frankie tells Michael that he saw the detectives go into his apartment; he wants to know what Michael told them. Michael tells Frankie exactly what happened, how his mother came home and made the policemen leave and how she told Michael not to tell anyone anything. At this,...
(The entire section is 562 words.)
Chapters 15-17 Summary
When Michael’s mother brings home a new radio, Michael asks if he can give their old radio to Rabbi Hirsch. Michael’s mother is not sure. She thinks the rabbi might be insulted because their old radio is so shabby. However, Michael tells her that the rabbi is very poor. He has next to nothing and would certainly appreciate any kind of radio. Michael’s mother finally gives in and Michael takes the old radio to the synagogue. When the rabbi sees Michael with the radio he is speechless. Michael thinks the rabbi looks at the radio as if it were something holy. The rabbi later thanks Michael; he says he will forever remember that day as the time a young boy brought music back into his life.
Later as he is walking home,...
(The entire section is 540 words.)
Chapters 18-20 Summary
Frankie McCarthy got out of jail. Michael did not know how he did it, but one day, while Michael was playing baseball in the street with his friends, Frankie McCarthy was there. Before Frankie saw them, Michael, Sonny, and Jimmy ran away. They were terribly afraid of Frankie. They did not know when it would happen, but they sensed that one day Frankie and his gang would beat them up. They might not kill them because the police would know who had done it, but they would definitely make the boys hurt.
Michael’s fear of Frankie as well as his frustration and confusion about whether to tell the police about Frankie was getting to him. He thought he was controlling his emotions during the day, but his dreams were making...
(The entire section is 436 words.)
Chapters 21-22 Summary
As Michael is walking to church on Easter morning, Mrs. Griffin comes running outside, yelling to him. She is very excited and wants to know if his mother has told him the news. Michael answers that she had not. Mrs. Griffin says that she won a lot of money at the races, and it all had to do with Michael’s dream. Mrs. Griffin had been looking at the names of the horses in a certain race. When she saw that one of horses was named Bowler Hat, she knew she had found the one she would bet on. The horse came in first place. Mrs. Griffin thanks Michael and gives him some money.
Michael then continued on his way to church. However, he stops when he heard a strange sound coming from the synagogue. When he locates what sounds...
(The entire section is 540 words.)
Chapters 23-25 Summary
Rumors spread through the neighborhood that Frankie McCarthy has made a deal with the police. Frankie confessed to having painted the swastikas on the synagogue and inside Michael’s apartment building. The police had found Frankie’s fingerprints on the paint can and the brush. Frankie’s lawyer told the boy that it would be best to confess to this crime. So Frankie is in jail—but for a shorter term than if the court had been able to prove Frankie assaulted Mr. G.
Still, Michael does not feel safe on the streets. Frankie is away but his gang members were still in the neighborhood. To take his mind off the gang and their threat, Michael takes the rabbi’s advice and studies very hard at school. He also focuses on...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
Chapters 26-27 Summary
When two policemen show up at the hospital, they try to make Michael tell them the names of the boys who beat him. Michael refuses to tell them. Instead, he says he has no idea who they were. Michael does not want to be labeled a “snitch.”
After the police leave, Michael gets out of bed and sees himself for the first time in the bathroom mirror. He does not recognize himself. He thinks his face is as black as Jackie Robinson’s. Then he wondered what Robinson would do if he were in Michael’s position. Surely, Michael imagines, Robinson would not run away. He would not be afraid. He would work harder and improve himself. So that is what Michael decides to do. He will become physically stronger so he can defend...
(The entire section is 570 words.)
Chapters 28-29 Summary
Before leaving Michael’s apartment, the rabbi pulls an envelope out of his jacket pocket. Inside are two tickets to a Dodgers baseball game, two weeks away. Michael’s mother thinks it is too soon. It would be too hard for Michael to make the trip with his leg in a cast. However, the rabbi and Michael assure her that everything will be all right. Michael is elated. He has never been to a professional game. When Michael’s mother tells the rabbi to be careful walking home, Michael reminds her that the rabbi had been able to get away from the Gestapo in Poland. Surely he can make his way through the neighborhood.
For the next two weeks, Michael spends most of his time studying. He has an appointment at his school to...
(The entire section is 581 words.)
Chapters 30-32 Summary
Michael and his mother decide to go see a movie one night in the summer. Afterward, they are discussing what they watched when Michael notices the Falcons gang up ahead of them. When his mother sees them, she reminds Michael that with him on crutches there is no way they can run. They will have to face them. To do so, they will have to show no fear. When they meet up with the gang members, the boys start to taunt Michael and his mother. One of the boys tears Michael’s mother’s blouse and threatens to sexually assault her. At this, Michael raises his crutch and begins to use it as a weapon. However, with his leg still in a cast, Michael is vulnerable. Someone pushes him and he topples over. Then a couple of the boys start to...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
Chapters 33-34 Summary
Michael feels determined to save Rabbi Hirsch. He has to make somebody pay for all the blood that has been shed and to stop any more crimes Frankie has planned. He thinks this as he watches from his bedroom window as his mother walks down the street. She looks so small and fragile. He has to do something to make sure she does not get hurt. She told him that she found a new apartment and is making plans to change her job and prepare for a move into a new part of the city. Michael has other plans.
All Michael can think of is the image of the rabbi lying in the gutter with blood on his face. He also remembers Mr. G., his head bashed in by the cash register Frankie dropped on the old man. Michael waits until dark, then he...
(The entire section is 449 words.)
Chapters 35-36 Summary
It is necessary for Michael to take several more loads of dirt to the synagogue before he is ready to create the golem. When he finally has enough mud, he shapes it into an eight-foot-tall figure with arms, legs, head, and a torso. Then he follows the rabbi’s instructions, speaks the magical words, and prays. Michael pours all his emotional energy into bringing the golem to life. He must save his mother and the rabbi.
Near exhaustion, Michael forces himself to stay awake as he waits for something to happen. After a while, as he stares at the muddy figure, he notices that a strange light that has begun to shine around the golem. Next he sees the creature move. In disbelief mixed with fear, Michael watches as the golem...
(The entire section is 590 words.)