In “Snow,” a short story from his 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning short-story collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Butler weaves the tale of a Vietnamese refugee, Giàu, and a Jewish lawyer, Mr. Cohen. Butler’s theme is once again the fracturing of community by the alienating sense of dislocation felt by outsiders.
On Christmas Eve, Giàu is working in the Plantation Hunan restaurant in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The product of a patriarchal society, she is a woman without a man, a position she finds uncomfortable. Everything about America makes her feel alien. In America, people are Christian; she is Buddhist. In America, people are always concerned about time; she had not seen a clock until she came to America (however, she likes the name of the “grandfather” clock, which conjures comforting images for her). She does not feel like those who live in the Vietnamese community in Lake Charles; she does not feel like a “real” American, like she supposes others do. Giàu compares herself to the building housing the restaurant, a former plantation home, noting that the life of a restaurant is not the life the house once knew.
Giàu remembers the first time she saw snow, while working in a St. Louis restaurant. The snow covered all that was familiar to her, frightening her. Just as she is frightened of snow, she is frightened to live her life without a man. When Mr. Cohen walks into the Plantation Hunan, she finds refuge...
(The entire section is 482 words.)