I used to keep a shoe box under my bed, filled with mementos from special people and occasions. A note. A trinket. A strip of photos from an 80’s photo-booth. A movie ticket stub. When my mother was stricken with terminal cancer a few years later, I collected letters and tributes from her friends and pressed them inside a photo album. It wasn’t the items I was collecting, but the stories they contained.
Years later, I discovered thrift stores. I fell in love with vintage odds and ends. A hand-painted vase. Odd, mismatched plates and coffee cups. Well-worn t-shirts from concerts and vacation locations. Used books with notes from one lover to another scribbled inside the front cover. They all had stories, and I created them. Their fictional stories entwined with my own. Became part of my own.
Maybe it was the writer in me. The introvert who found it too exhausting to socialize, imagining others’ lives instead. Or maybe it was, as Alexis M. Smith writes in Glaciers” my attempt to hold onto the past, ‘a kind of mourning for the things that do not last.’ Everything might be fleeting, but stories survive.
About the Book
Perhaps all of this is why I was so enchanted by “Glaciers”. “Glaciers” is the story of an introvert named Isabel told over the course of a single day. She works in a library where she repairs damaged books. The reader learns about her through flashbacks of her childhood, her love of vintage dresses and relics, as well as her dreams of visiting cities she hasn’t yet been. She collects photographs and postcards. imagining the stories that go with them.
All the while, she harbors a crush on her coworker Spoke, an Iraq war veteran. During their shared presence in the break room, she imagines the infatuation is mutual. And it is. But their feelings for each other are only shown when it’s too late. Spoke is called back to war, leaving only a story for her to tell as a type of mourning for another thing that couldn’t last.
“Spoke belongs to a place that does not actually exist, a city just like this one, except that in the other city they have been lovers for weeks, have had their first fight, and have eaten food from each other’s plates.”
“Glaciers” is a story about stories. The stories underline the novel’s theme of loss. The loss of romance, of family members, of her childhood home, and in the fading stories of the vintage photographs and dresses. However, “Glaciers” isn’t heavy or sad. It’s lyrical and light. There isn’t a definable plot, but it’s still rich with emotion and depth. It’s beautifully written. It’s enchanting. Engaging.
“Glaciers” is for the introvert. It’s for the person sad from loss who needs to realize the beauty of the stories left behind. It’s a powerful little book that washes over you as gently as a warm spring breeze. You’ll finish it refreshed.
We hold onto stories to hold onto the past, to mourn those things that do not last. It’s why I’ll hold onto this book and tell its story for years to come.
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