Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 563
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 must make fulfill commitment.
Although his mother tells him that he should not go out into the cold morning, Michael insists. He has a warm jacket, he tells her. He will make the eight-block journey without injury. However, once Michael sets out, he realizes that his challenge is greater than he had thought. Trees are falling from the strong winds and heavy snow. Once, a wind gust is so strong that it knocks Michael down. Then, just before he reaches the church, he hears a man’s voice calling to him. The man is standing in front of the Jewish Synagogue, a familiar place Michael has often passed without paying much attention to it. The Jewish man talks with a thick accent and is beckoning to Michael, shouting to the boy that he needs help.
When Michael goes to the man’s side, he begins to feel very suspicious. The man only needs the boy to turn on the lights for him. Michael wonders why the man cannot do this for himself; he appears able. The man tries to explain to Michael that he is not allowed to turn on the lights on that day according to Jewish law. Michael does not understand this, but he flips the light switch and then proceeds to his Catholic Church, where Father Heaney is waiting for him.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 705
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...
(The entire section contains 8298 words.)
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