Whiter Than Snow: A Novel

Whiter Than Snow: A Novel

by Sandra Dallas


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From the New York Times bestselling author of Prayers for Sale comes a powerful novel about the intersection of redemption, forgiveness, and love. . . .

On a spring afternoon in 1920, Swandyke—a small town near Colorado's Tenmile Range—is changed forever. Just moments after four o'clock, a large split of snow separates from Jubilee Mountain high above the tiny hamlet and hurtles down the rocky slope, enveloping everything in its path.

Meet the residents whose lives this tragedy touches: Lucy and Dolly Patch, two sisters long estranged by a shocking betrayal. Joe Cobb, Swandyke's only black resident, whose love for his daughter forces him to flee Alabama. Then there's Grace Foote, who hides secrets and scandal that belie her genteel façade. And Minder Evans, a Civil War veteran who considers cowardice his greatest sin. Finally, there's Essie Snowball, born Esther Schnable to conservative Jewish parents, who now works as a prostitute and hides her child's parentage from the world.

Fate, chance, and perhaps divine providence all collide in the everyday lives of these people. And ultimately, no one is without sin, no one's soul is whiter than snow, and no one is without the need for forgiveness.

A quintessential American voice and a writer of exquisite historical detail, Sandra Dallas illuminates the resilience of the human spirit in her newest novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312663162
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 03/01/2011
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 331,360
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.08(h) x 0.84(d)

About the Author

Award-winning author Sandra Dallas was dubbed "a quintessential American voice" by Jane Smiley, in Vogue Magazine. She is the author of The Bride's House, Prayers for Sale and Tallgrass, among others. Her novels have been translated into a dozen languages and optioned for films. She is the recipient of the Women Writing the West Willa Award and the two-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award. For 25 years, Dallas worked as a reporter covering the Rocky Mountain region for Business Week, and started writing fiction in 1990. She lives with her husband in Denver, Colorado.

Read an Excerpt


No one knew what triggered the Swandyke avalanche that began at exactly 4:10 p.m. on April 20, 1920. It might have been the dynamite charge that was set off at the end of shift on the upper level of the Fourth of July Mine. The miners claimed the blast was too far inside the mountain to be felt on the surface, and besides, they had set off dynamite hundreds, maybe thousands, of times before, and nothing bad had happened. Except for that one time when a charge failed to go off and Howard Dolan hit it with his pick when he was mucking out the stope and blew himself and his partner to kingdom come.

Still, who knew how the old mountain took retribution for having its insides clawed out.

Certainly there was nothing to suggest that the day was different from any other. It started chill and clear. The men, their coat collars turned up against the dawn cold, left for their shifts at the Fourth of July or on the dredge up the Swan River, dinner pails clutched in their mittened hands. A little later, the children went off to school, the older brothers and sisters pulling little ones on sleds. Groups of boys threw snowballs at one another. One grabbed onto the back of a wagon and slid along over the icy road behind it. The Connor girl slipped on the ice and fell over a stone embankment, hitting her head. It hurt so much that she turned around and went home crying. The others called her a crybaby, but after what happened later that day, her parents said the blessed God had taken her hand.

After the children were gone, the women washed the breakfast dishes and started the beans for dinner. Then because the sun came out bright enough to burn your skin in the thin air, came out after one of the worst blizzards they had ever encountered, they got out the washtubs and scrubbed the overalls and shirts, the boys’ knickers and the girls’ dresses. When the wash was rinsed and wrung, they climbed onto the platforms that held the clotheslines far above the snow and hung up the clothes, where they would dry stiff as boards in the wind. Then because it was such a fine day, as fine a day as ever was, they called to one another to come and visit. There was a bit of coffee to reheat, and won’t you have a cup? Cookies, left over from the lunch pails, were set on plates on the oilcloth of the kitchen tables, and the women sat, feeling lazy and gossipy.

“You know, the Richards girl had her baby last week,” announced a woman in one of the kitchens, taking down the good china cups for coffee.

“Was her husband the father?” asked her neighbor.

“I didn’t have the nerve to ask.”

In another house, a woman confided, “The doctor says Albert has the cancer, but he won’t have his lungs cut on.”

“Then he’ll die,” her friend replied, muttering to herself, “at last.”

It was that kind of a day, one for confidences or lazy talk. The women blessed the bright sun after so many winter days of gloom. Nobody thought about an avalanche. What could cause trouble on a day the Lord had given them?

Maybe the cause was an animal—a deer or an elk or even a mountain sheep—making its way along the ridge of Jubilee Mountain. The weight of the beast would have been enough to loosen the snow. That happened often enough. Nobody saw an animal, but then, who was looking?

Or worthless Dave Buck might have set off the avalanche. He’d put on snowshoes and taken his gun and gone high up to hunt for a deer—a fawn, really, for Dave was too lazy to cut up the bigger carcass and haul it home. The company forbade hunting around the mine, but Dave didn’t care. He snowshoed up near timberline, where he’d seen the footprints of deer. He didn’t find any, and he stopped to drink from a pint he’d put into his pocket. One drink, and another, and he sat down beside a stunted pine and picked off the cones and slid them down the white slope. Then he tossed the bottle into that cornice of snow that dipped out over a ridge.

But perhaps it was nothing more than the spring melt. That storm a few days before had dumped five feet of snowfall on top of a dry, heavy base of winter-worn snow. The wind had driven the snow off ridges, leaving them barren, and piled it into large cornices high up. But now the day was cloudless, the sun shining down as harsh as if it had been midsummer. It was so bright that it hurt your eyes to see the glare on the white, and some of the miners rubbed charcoal under their eyes to cut the sharpness.

But who cared what the cause was? Something started the slide that roared down Jubilee Mountain in Swandyke, Colorado, and that was all that mattered.

There was a sharp crack like the sound of distant thunder, and then the cornice of snow where Dave Buck had thrown his bottle, a crusted strip two hundred feet long that flared out over the mountain ridge, fractured and fell. It landed on layers of snow that covered the mountain slope to a depth of more than six feet—a heavy, wet, melting mass of new snow on top, falling on frozen layers of snowpack that lay on a bed of crumbled ice. That bottommost layer, a mass of loose ice crystals formed by freezing and thawing, lubricated the acres of snow lying on top of it just as much as if the bed had been made of marbles, and sent the snow careening down the mountain.

The miners called such a phenomenon a “slab avalanche” because a curtain of snow slid down the slope, picking up speed at a terrible rate, until it reached one hundred miles an hour. Nothing stood in the way of the terrifying slide, because the mountainside was bare of trees. They had been torn out forty years earlier in the second wave of mining that came after the prospectors abandoned gold pans and sluice boxes. Men had trained giant hoses on the mountain, washing dirt down the slope to be processed for precious minerals. Hydraulic mining, as it was called, also rid the mountainside of rocks and trees and underbrush that would have interfered with an avalanche—not that anything could have held back the tons of white that slid down Jubilee Mountain that afternoon. The slide would have taken anything in its path.

This was not the first slide on Jubilee Mountain. The hillside, in fact, was known for avalanches. But it was the worst, and it spilled over into the forest at the edge of the open slope, tearing out small trees by their roots and hurling them into the rushing snow, which turned them into battering rams. A cabin that perched under the pines was wrenched from its foundation, its log walls torn asunder and broken into jackstraws.

The slide rushed onward, churning up chunks of ice the size of boxcars, gathering up abandoned hoses and machinery and the other detritus of mining that lay in its path. It hurtled on, thrashing its deadly cargo about, not slowing when it reached the bottom of the mountain, but instead rushing across the road, filling the gully with snow as heavy as wet cement and flattening the willows. The avalanche hurtled on until it started up Turnbull Mountain. Then, at last, its momentum came to an end and the slide was exhausted, the front stopping first, the back end slipping down the mountain and filling the gulch with snow higher than a two-story house.

Snow hovered in the air like a deadly mist. The debris caught up in the avalanche rolled a little and was still. A jack pine, graceful as a sled, glided to a stop in the snow covering the road. Clumps of snow fell from the trees still standing at the edge of the deadly white mass, making plopping sounds as they landed. Snowballs broke loose and rolled down the hill, leaving little trails in their wake.

For an instant, all was quiet, as silent as if the slide had occurred in a primeval forest. Then a high-pitched scream came from somewhere in the mass of snow, a child’s scream. The slide thundered down Jubilee Mountain just after the grade school let out, and it grabbed up nine of thirty-two schoolchildren in its icy grip. Five of the victims were related, the children of the Patch sisters—Dolly’s three, who were Jack, Carrie, and Lucia, along with Lucy’s two, Rosemary and Charlie. The slide was no respecter of class, because it took Schuyler Foote, son of the manager of the Fourth of July Mine, and little Jane Cobb, the Negro girl, whose father labored in the mill, and Sophie Schnable, the daughter of a prostitute. And then there was Emmett Carter, that near-orphan boy who lived with his grandfather. All of them were swept up and carried along in that immense swirl of white.

Four of the children survived.

WHITER THAN SNOW Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Dallas.

Reading Group Guide


The ideas for most of my books come with a sort of flash of "inspiration," if I can call it that, what James Michener termed "the magical moment." But in the case of Whiter Than Snow, I can't tell you when the idea hit me. I'm not sure what triggered the book. All I know is I was at a Western Writers of America convention in Scottsdale, Ariz., in June, 2008, and heard a well-known writer remark that a plot was a group of unrelated people coming together to face a common danger. Why that comment, on a day where the temperature was over 100 degrees, led to a book about an avalanche high in the Colorado Rockies is unclear. All I know is that later on, I became aware that I was going to write a book about a snowslide.

Writing Whiter Than Snow was a joy to write, because it incorporates so many things that interest me personally. Each of the chapters involves subjects I wanted to explore:

The chapter on Lucy and Dolly, for instance, is about connections between women, in this case sisters. I suppose I wanted to elaborate on that because my sister Mary and I are so close. And it is about the love-hate relationships people have with where they live. Place has always been a character in my books. In Whiter Than Snow, it is the harsh Colorado mountains where I once lived.

In the past few years, I've read a great deal about the post-Civil War treatment of African Americans, and was stunned to learn that in some cases, treatment of blacks was worse after emancipation. Slaves had an economic value, so while their treatment of slaves was often brutal, their owners had an economic reason to keep them alive. That disappeared with emancipation, so freedom, as Joe and his family knew, was as fraught with danger as slavery had been.

I've never had much sympathy for the problems of the rich, but in Grace's case, her problem was not just being rich and losing her fortune, it was about the lack of options for all women in the early part of the 20th century. As a feminist, I'm well aware of the dearth of opportunities for women, both historically and in my lifetime. When I married in 1963, my credit cards were cancelled and applications sent to my husband. A bank refused to consider my income when my husband and I applied for a home loan. ("You might get pregnant.") I was turned down for jobs because "that's a man's position." I've encountered sexual harassment and job and pay discrimination. So I can relate to Grace's plight.

Incidentally, I set this chapter in Saginaw, Michigan, because it was written just after I gave a speech in Saginaw. I loved the town with its wonderful Victorian mansions.

Years ago, when my husband was in charge of publicity for the Breckenridge Ski Area, he invited the Back Porch Majority, a singing group that was a sort of farm team for the New Christy Minstrels, to ski there. One of the group's songs was about the Sultana, and there's where I first heard about the Mississippi steamboat whose sinking was the greatest maritime disaster in U.S. history. More people were killed in the Sultana tragedy than in the sinking of the Titanic.

My daughter Dana and I visited the Tenement Museum in New York several years ago, and I was intrigued with conditions on the Lower East Side and the structured lives of immigrant women. That led to the chapter on Essie Snowball.

Because I was personally interested in so many of the subjects I wrote about in Whiter Than Snow, the research was fun. Mostly, I read everything I can find on whatever I'm writing about, but in this case, some of the research came from an unexpected source, my grandson, Forrest Athearn, then age six. He heard I was working on a book about a snowslide, so he wrote me a note entitled "About Avalanches:" "Avalanches start from ckoneses. The wend has to blow it hard and then it forms into a pelo and then it fols down a speshl way. Avalanches omle are on step mowtines. You can die esale. They go fast."

That's about all I needed to know, and it's little wonder, then, that the book is dedicated to Forrest.

1. Why does Lucy hate Swandyke, while her sister Dolly loves it? What do the mountains represent to each girl? Why did Lucy miss Dolly more than Ted during the women's estrangement?

2. Emancipation did not end prejudice against African Americans, and in many cases, their treatment was worse after freedom. Compare the lives of men during slavery with Joe's life as a post-Civil War black man. How was it better and worse? When did the attitude toward blacks change, and what brought about that change?

3. Why was Grace so anxious to find a husband after she discovered her family's fortune was gone? Did she have options other than marriage? Compare her life with Jim with what it would have been if she'd married George.

4. Should Minder have tried to save Billy Boy, even though both men would have drowned?

Why didn't Minder identify himself to Kate when he encountered her in Fort Madison? Should he have done so?

5. What made Esther more ambitious than her sister? What alternative did she have to becoming a prostitute? Does she have a future in Swandyke? Will the townspeople ever forget she was a hooker?

6. Which character in the book did you relate to most, and why?

7. You knew from the outset that only four of the nine children caught in the avalanche would live. Which ones would you have saved?

8. If an avalanche took place in a small mountain town today, how would the residents' reactions differ from those of the townspeople in Swandyke in 1920? How would they be the same?

9. Why does tragedy bring people together? How did it change the characters in Whiter Than

Snow? And how does it change people in general?

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Whiter Than Snow 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
wordwrite More than 1 year ago
We live in an electronic age - but one of life's greatest delights is to curl up with a good book and through it be transported to another age. My most recent favorite portal is "Whiter Than Snow", by author Sandra Dallas. Ms. Dallas creates people, in places, doing things. Her writing is so richly evocative that the reader actually experiences the story: hearing the voices, smelling the food cooking, seeing what is just outside the window. This latest of her books begins with these words: "No one knew what triggered the Swandyke avalanche that began at exactly 4:10 p.m. on April 20, 1920." There follows a cast of people affected by the experience, each of whom brings to it his or her life history. Ms. Dallas has a gift - her stories all take place in different times (Civil War, early 20th century) and in different places (Iowa, Kansas, Colorado) and each is as real as today, out the front door. Her characters are absolutely three-dimensional and become friends or acquaintances instantly. They vary in age, appearance, perspective - and each single one, male or female, are compelling. I was given "Alice's Tulips" as a gift to read at a conference in which I had only passing interest (but it afforded the chance to spend time with a dear friend who was interested). She had included tiny calico quilt squares as bookmarks - that was my introduction to Sandra Dallas. Since then I have read every word and chafed waiting for the next volume. Because each story is a rich tale unto itself and unrelated to any of the others, each promises to be a whole new vista full of new experiences..and delivers. "Whiter Than Snow" is a more complicated plot than the others; rather than being a drawback, however, it simply draws the reader in to pay close attention - and is this not what we want in a book read for pleasure? It's true - "Whiter Than Snow" is my favorite current portal into another world. However, having read this I predict any lover of delicious stories will hurry to the bookstore for her other stories, one after the other. My FAVORITE favorite Sandra Dallas story? You'll get a different answer each week; suffice it to say that in this age of unending available books, I reread her stories from time to time. They settle heart and clear the mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the characters and their stories!A great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story takes place in the 1900's. A mining town in Colorado has a tragedy that involves families living there. The author takes you through the various lives of the family prior to the accident. It is a very moving story that makes you stop and think about your own family. Beautifully wriiten. I was so moved by the story of these familes. One of Ms. Dallas best. A must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Believe this is a little different from most od Sandra books ENJOYED
WillowOne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sandra Dallas started her career in journalism. She began writing nonfiction while still working for "Business Week" magazine. She has written 9 fiction books and 2 nonfiction."Whiter Than Snow" is about an avalanche in a small Colorado mining town that sweeps down the mountain taking 9 children, walking home from school, with it. The books starts with the avalanche and then goes into the background of the town and the families affected when their children are caught in the path of the avalanche. The bigger part of the book centers on telling the reader about the families, how and why they came to the small town and their interaction/relationship to the others in the town. The author shows the problems between families, friends and newcomers and how tragedy can bring people together and change the whole dynamic of the town.I listened to this book on CD,narrated by Ali Ahn. I must admit that even though this book has a wonderful overall message, I found it to be slow to build and fast to end. I think I would have been still reading if I had actually had to read it.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reason for Reading: I've always wanted to read a Sandra Dallas book and the plot of this one was particularly intriguing.This is a beautiful story. It's what I call a light read. I picked the book up one evening and when it was time to turn out the light saw I had read three-quarters of the book. The story is simple and quite straight-forward but Dallas has written it in such a manner that the reader becomes emotionally involved in the characters by the time the already mentioned tragedy unfolds. She brings to her characters redemption, love, forgiveness and perhaps a look into God's mysterious way.The story opens with an avalanche on top of a mountain in a tiny mining village and nine children coming home from school are caught in the slide. We are told four survived. Then each of the following chapters focuses on a child's or siblings' parents or in some cases parent. These historical vignettes can go as far back as the grandparents but most concentrate on the parent(s) and the one great or many small sins they have hidden in their lives. Each ends with the birth of the children or sometime in their early life. So we never really get to know the children, only through how they are thought of by others. Then comes a point when the story picks up with the avalanche and we watch the town come together to deal with the rescue and tragedy that is their fate.The reader is in a position now to know how each family will react if it is their child(ren) that die and the reader is also vested in who could best handle the situation and perhaps who most needs redemption through the experience of death. Each person with a buried child has a reason to think they are being punished for their past sins and each also has reason to be forgiven. How it works out for the families in the end is very satisfying both for those who lost their children and those whose children lived. A beautiful story and a page-turner. I will certainly be adding Sandra Dallas to my list of authors to read.
kpolhuis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am a long-abiding fan of Sandra Dallas' work. I once wrote to her to say that waiting for her book to come in the mail was like waiting for my best friend to come visit. I still feel that way. I am not one for such sad topics as this novel was about, but after a few pages I could not put this book down until I had reached the end. Sandra has touched my heart again and there were even tears at the end. So if you have never read a book of hers, ever, you should definitely go out and get them all! They are treasures to be looked at again and again. As precious as a good friend.
khiemstra631 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sandra Dallas always writes interesting books, and this one is no exception. An avalanche hits the mining town of Swandyke, Colorado sweeping away several children on their way home from school in the first chapter. In subsequent chapters, Dallas explores the stories of each of the children's families. In the final few chapters, she returns to the avalanche, recounting the search for bodies and telling us who lived and who died. Some details is also given concerning the survivors of the dead children. Dallas is an author whose books are not to be missed.
CMash on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Whiter Than Snow by Sandra DallasPublished by St. Martin's PressISBN 978-0-312-60015-0At the request of Authors On The Web, a HC copy was sent, at no cost to me, for my honest opinion. Synopsis (from book's jacket): On a spring afternoon in 1920, Swandyke-a small town near Colorado's Tenmile Range-is changed forever. Just moments after four o'clock, a large split of snow separates from Jubilee Mountain high above the tiny hamlet and hurtles down the rocky slope, enveloping everything in its path. Meet the residents whose lives this tragedy touches: Lucy and Dolly Patch, two sisters long estranged by a shocking betrayal. Joe Cobb, Swandyke's only black resident, whose love for his daughter forces him to flee Alabama. Then there's Grace Foote who hides secrets and scandal that belie her genteel facade. And Minder Evans, a Civil War veteran who considers cowardice his greatest sin. Finally, there's Essie Snowball, born Esther Schnable to conservative Jewish parents but who now works as a prostitute and hides her child's parentage from the world. Fate, chance, and perhaps divine providence all collide in the everyday lives to these people. And ultimately, no one is without sin, no ones's soul is whiter than snow, and no one is without the need for forgiveness. My Thoughts and Opinion: This is the first novel by Sandra Dallas that I have read, and in my opinion, is a gifted storyteller. The first chapter grips you with a glimpse of what is to come. It begins on that fateful day, April 20th 1920 when the avalanche roars through Swandyke, Colorado. Subsequent chapters follow the lives of six (6) residents prior to that fateful day and then returns, once again to 1920 bringing the story full circle. The author's writing style, one word, exceptional. While reading this novel, for me, was like watching a movie in my imagination. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the history, the fashion or lack of, the housing, professions, morals, racism, inter caste system and beliefs of the 1920's and before, on a personal level, because my grandmother was born in 1900. And a profound underlying message that forgiveness comes within and is a gift to one's self and that no one's soul is whiter than snow. This moving and emotional tale was truly a treasure to read. My Rating: 4/5
tjsjohanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ms. Dallas hasn't disappointed yet - I love her novels. Like her last novel ("Prayers for Sale"), this one is set in a mining town in Colorado Rockies. In a bit of a departure, Ms. Dallas intertwines the stories of a number of characters, bringing them together in the tragedy that befalls the small town of Swandyke. I loved the way the characters find grace in the midst of sorrow.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On a perfect April day in 1920, a cornice of snow breaks free and becomes a fatal avalanche which kills four children walking home from school in a tiny Colorado mining community. Sandra Dallas opens her latest novel with this event, and then backtracks to explore the lives of the families involved in the tragedy. What follows is a series of linked short stories of each of the main characters. Dallas brings the stories full circle when, at the end of the book, she returns to the mining town in the aftermath of the avalanche and brings closure to her characters¿ personal journeys. In an interview about the book, Dallas says:Each of the chapters involves subjects I wanted to explore.These include a difficult relationship between sisters which is complicated by jealousy and misunderstanding; the post-Civil war treatment of African Americans; women¿s rights and class differences ¿ including a woman who finds her future at risk when her father loses his money, and an immigrant woman who turns to prostitution to support her young daughter; and finally post-traumatic stress, in this case surrounding a man who served in the Union army and feels guilty for the death of one of his friends. Each of the multi-layered stories could almost stand on their own ¿ which gave an unusual depth to the completed novel.Dallas explores the aftermath of tragedy, specifically the randomness of loss and the importance of community in navigating that loss. She captures the closeness of a mining community which often has to face tragedy and finds themselves isolated by the geography of the mountains and long winters.It was the way things were done there. The grief of one was the grief of all. ¿ from Whiter Than Snow, page 254 -Sandra Dallas is considered an historical fiction writer ¿ and Whiter Than Snow is indeed a slice of history inserted into fiction; but, I think Dallas writes beyond her genre in this novel by looking at the psychological make-up of her characters within the context of history. Readers might be interested to know that Swandyke is an actual town ¿ although it is now a ghost town ¿ but Dallas imagines the avalanche and its impact on the people.I found Whiter Than Snow to be a quick, provocative read which will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction and character driven stories.Recommended.
milibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
April 20, 1920, was a day no one in Swandyke, Colorado would ever forget. An avalanche rushed down the mountainside at the same time the children were walking home from school. Grace (the wife of the mine manager), two estranged sisters--Lucy and Dolly, Essie (a prostitute), Minder (a Civil War veteran), and Joe--the only Negro in town--would have their lives and relationships with the other residents changed in a way in which they could never have anticipated. They can no longer hide behind their pasts and fears as they are forced to come together and forgive each other and themselves. Each of the characters in this piece of historical fiction will work their way into the reader's heart as they struggle with becoming "whiter than snow."
joannedaley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed with this book. I had heard that Sandra Dallas was a great author but this book did not show her skill. It only talked about the avalanche in the beginning of the book and the end,the whole rest of the book gave overly detailed descriptions of the family memebers effected by the avalanche. It really dragged on!
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In "Whiter Than Snow," Sandra Dallas offers another look at life in Colorado's gold mining towns during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a time when the hardiest, most adventurous (or, perhaps, most desperate) souls were willing to risk their lives for a steady job in a company town. Swandyke, near Tenmile Range, is filled with people who have come to the cold little town for a variety of reasons. Some are in hiding from creditors or the law; some just kept moving westward, failing in one move after the other, until they ended up in Colorado; and its lone black resident is here because he struck a white man and had to run for his life in the middle of the night.Swandyke is a town in which the privacy of others is respected. Those who want to keep to themselves can do so for years. The men, many of whom are of the hard-drinking variety, work the mine; the women stay home and raise their children, teach in the town schoolhouse, or work in the local brothel. Life in Swandyke, especially in the wintertime, is tough but, by the spring of 1920, life there has become routine for most of its residents.That will change, though, at 4:10 p.m. on April 20, 1920 when an avalanche gobbles up nine Swandyke school children as they make their way home form their little schoolhouse. Five of the avalanche victims are the children of two estranged sisters, one is the son of the mine manager, one is the only black child in the town, one is the daughter of a prostitute, and the other is being raised by his Civil War veteran grandfather.The author remarks in the book's very first chapter that only four of the nine children will survive. The rest of "Whiter Than Snow" deals with who the nine children are and how their families came to be in Swandyke, Colorado, working for the big Fourth of July mine. Dallas tells their story in a series of flashbacks and backstories involving each of the six families that have had children snatched away by the avalanche. The reader learns of the strengths, weaknesses, hopes and dreams of each parent, a group of people with very little in common other than their work at the mine and their love for their children. Suddenly, though these people have hardly interacted before, they come together in a wave of mutual support that will help the most unfortunate of them survive the five terrible losses just ahead.As the book's main characters are being developed, the novel is steadily building to a dramatic climax during which the reader will finally learn which children survive and which do not. The townspeople know they have less than twenty minutes to dig survivors from beneath the snow - and, one-by-one, they will bring children to the surface in their race against the clock. For five children, it is too late. If you begin this book, you will not quit reading until you find out which five.Rated at: 4.0
frisbeesage on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Whiter Than Snow is a historical novel about the Colorado mining towns of the early 1900s. Sandra Dallas is known for her compelling western dramas, well research and so realistic you can feel the grit in your teeth and the cold in your bones. In her latest novel the town of Swandyke has suffered an avalanche and nine children have been buried. As the town frantically works to dig the children out, Dallas takes us through the lives of each family affected, detailing their histories and heartbreaks.I became easily engrossed in this book as with all of Sandra Dallas's novels. However I did find Whiter Than Snow to be darker and more somber than her others. I can usually count on Dallas for a few good laughs, but this was stronger on the social commentary and probably more realistic. I recommend this book if you like Western American literature like Plainsong and Peace Like a River.
tanya2009 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On a spring afternoon in 1920, a small town in Colorado is changed forever. Meet the residents whose lives this tragedy touches. Good story about people pulling together after tragedy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My favorite book by this author
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
decent book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this book from first to last page. Storyline kept me wanting more. Sandra Dallas out did herself!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shows how you never know what someone will do!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Took this book along while on vacation. Read it every chance I got...finished it in two days. Felt like I was right there with the wonderful characters feeling their emotions alongside them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed immensely- wonderful character development blending time frames. I felt as though I were right there in the experience.