The "why" of a novel often dictates its literary success and Mary Casanova's novel "Frozen" illustrates this point:
"For two decades I have been haunted by an account in Hiram Drache's Koochiching about life in northern Minnesota in the early 1900s," Casanova wrote in an Author's Note.
"A prostitute was found frozen one morning in the snow... What it churned in me was a deep desire to understand and give voice to this woman's life and death. Perhaps avenge it."
Casanova's attempt to avenge the prostitute's life falls short:
- She wends a contrived, uneven story of coincidence that continues beyond its manipulated ending.
- characters populating the novel are one-dimensional caricatures written to suit Casanova's purposes; they do not breathe.
- Narrator Sadie Rose observes her actions, describes her motivations and tells her conclusions in an out of body fashion that keeps readers from becoming absorbed in her story. She does not know herself well enough to tell the story.
Noah Lukeman, author of "The First Five Pages" wrote, "Viewpoint and narration comprise a delicate, elaborate facade, in which one tiny break of inconsistency can be disastrous, the equivalent of striking a dissonant note in the minds of a harmonious musical performance."
Sadie Rose's opening chapter piano prowess holds promise, but as with so many of her personality traits and personal emotions, this one proves as distracting as an irrelevant Sherlock Holmes' clue.
Sadie Rose assumes a strange, consistent knack for bending others to her will-- servicing the plot more than its reader.
For example, she convinces environmentalist Victor Guttenberg to take her on a canoe trip, even though being alone with an impressionable young woman is inappropriate behavior in the 1920s and will most certainly alienate her father, Senator Worthington. Guttenberg's greatest desire is to bend the Senator's ear, why would he risk angering this powerful man?
The characters feel artificial and easily led, the story line unbelievable, yet despite these flaws, Casanova is master of place.
She lives in Ranier, situated in Northern Minnesota where Canada meets the United States. Like a tour guide, she invites readers into her neck of the woods, once rife with loons and steamers, brothels and bootleggers, corrupt businessmen and pliable politicians.