With the Snow Queen

by Joanne Greenberg

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With the Snow Queen

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 372

Some collections can be read straight through like a novel, but the fourteen stories in WITH THE SNOW QUEEN deserve to be savored, one at a time. Each ushers the reader into its own world, a world that deepens as it reverberates. In her fourth volume of short fiction, Greenberg focuses on connections—connections between people and others, and connections between people and themselves. She boldly interweaves imagination and realism to investigate unusual juxtapositions: a minor character being written out of a novel talks back to the author and refuses to be erased in “The Bitch"; a con artist is mesmerized by a painting of the Holy Family when he takes refuge in an art museum to escape the police in “The Flight into Egypt”; and in the futuristic titled story, “With the Snow Queen,” Sema applies for a time-travel pass to go back twenty years and re-arrange events that led up to her dull middle age.

But Greenberg also writes of a more conventional life experience. Her long-standing relationships with deaf friends and fluency with sign language lead to a realistic and unsentimental treatment of deaf people in “Like a Native.” She investigates themes of religious heritage and familial roots in stories such as “Introduction to Seismology” and “Stand Still, Ute River,” set in Colorado, where Greenberg lives. The author’s style reflects her imagination. With deft turns of phrase, she offers the reader stepping-stones on which to cross her quickly moving streams of thought. However, the distances between stones vary, and some are small and slippery. The collection is thus a bit uneven, and a few story endings may leave the reader unsatisfied. Still, when Greenberg’s magic works, it works marvelously. “Retrieval” at first seems to be a story of a helpless little old lady caught in a neighborhood of poverty and violence, but the reader is masterfully, almost imperceptibly, nudged to a different conclusion. As Greenberg’s characters delve into the past and the future and look more deeply in to the present, they become fuller in their own lives. Readers of this collection will also become fuller for having glimpsed the inner workings of other human beings; several of these new stories are likely to become classics.

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