“Shoveling Snow” by Brett Sills is a contemporary general fiction novel set in Maine. It shows four different people dealing with grief in different ways. Ben ran away from his problems. Maggie suffers from depression. Smoof keeps to herself. Rose tries to find the courage to confront her mistakes, but always chickens out at the last minute.
It’s a sad story about sad people. It is free of violence and sex, but contains quite a bit of foul language. The story is engaging and keeps you wanting to learn more. The characters are real and believable. Smoof comes off as an “aspie” or brainchild that some people will understand, and others won’t.
What makes the story unique is how the author adds a bit of drama to an otherwise dead-lined plot. A plot is supposed to have hills and valleys of excitement that build up to a climax. Because the characters are all depressing, the author sometimes takes a respite from their stories, and tells a backstory about the town, instead. The stories are all about someone who “went to a better place”. The backstory has a bit of excitement to it that keeps the plot from getting too bogged down in misery. Getting to that “better place” becomes the unstated goal of all of the characters. It’s a technique I haven’t seen used before. The author pulls it off quite well, until the last time when it isn’t done in the same style. The italicized backstory about Maggie needed to be worked another way to continue the flow and pattern the rest of the book sets.
What holds the story back is the writing style. The author is a screenwriter/copywriter from Los Angeles. This is his second novel. Yet, the writing is full of sentence fragments and improper punctuation. It could be read by an actor quite well, but the immense amount of grammatical errors makes the reading uncomfortable. It should have been sent to a proofreader. Any English teacher worth her salt would give this paper an F. If periods were illegal, the author would be looking at a life sentence.
All in all, it was a pleasant story about dealing with grief. Everyone has deep hurts, and everyone deals with it in a different way. This story takes a common hurt, death of a loved one, and works out all the possible solutions to the problem through the different characters, the weak and the strong. Its universal theme gives it an appeal that most everyone can identify with.
I obtained a copy of the book from ereadernews.com.