Despite the Falling Snow – A book review


Despite the Falling Snow

Written by Shamim Sarif

ISBN 0-7553-2015-8


Alexander first appears in a courtyard, in his sixties.  He is polite, and witty, bold and a holds a preciseness that speaks of confidence and assuredness.  As his story unfolds, life during the Soviet Union shows how deep secrets can penetrate a life, beyond Russia, and alter even the most well laid out plans.  We learn of a love that overcame betrayal, friendship that ended in betrayal and most importantly of starting over at any age.  

There is a precision and delicateness to the narrative voice of this book. The plot is set out with long yards of threads to weave and slowly they are weaved together for a wonderful and fitting ending. The time line switchs between 1960’s and 2000 seamlessly, the clean voice keeping things straight on point.  


And being out of the loop on what is current in the media, I’ve just learned they’ve made this into a movie as well.  

Working Title ‘Other Half’ – Another Novel section

In an attempt to hold myself accountable, I’ve promised myself that I will post sections, unedited, of the novel I am working ever so slowly on.  Below is another section.  The tidbits I have posted are not in chronological order as far as the book goes, just sections I feel are complete enough to make some sense.

Faith had pulled nearly everything from the closet.  Trying on Mom’s clothes was something she did often, but that day she was on a mission.  She had moved past the clothes she had tried on before; dresses that were far too big for her 7 year old body.  She was such a waif.  She could fit her head through the arm holes with ease.  

Many of these dresses only ever saw the light of day when Faith tried them on.  Faith would often bury her nose into the clothes, breathing deeply, claiming they smelled of a perfume.  I was hard to believe that any of those clothes ever fit Mom.  Mom usually wore the same shirt and jeans for days on end, the collar of the shirts often misaligned on her skeletal frame.  When ever Faith asked about the clothes in her closet, Mom always answered the same way; Those clothes were from another life.     

Faith had moved past the dresses and the shoes quicker than usual, and turned her attention to the shelves above the closet rod.  Sweaters had been stuffed on the shelves haphazardly, pinned between two boxes of different sizes.  She reached up high on her tip toes, and pulled things down, starting with the sweaters leaving them as a pile on the closet floor, covering the shoes that resided there.  Intent on seeing what may be in the boxes stored up there, she inched them forward, reaching way up, using the clothing rod for extra leverage, and caught just the corner of the box and moving it diagonally forward so it would hang ever so slightly over the edge of the shelf.  She pushed up and out on the corners of the boxes, and moved it slowly more and more over the shelf edge, until finally gravity would take over and the box would topple from its hiding spot.  Faith would move just in time so as to not have it land on her, leaving the box to hit the floor, spilling their contents.  

“She’s going to kill you, ya know.”  I said to Faith.  I was sitting on top of mom’s dresser, lazily leaning my head against my knees, my feet wiggling to make room for themselves amoung the empty coffee cups, tissues and other bits that had not made it to the bin yet.

“I’ll clean it up before she gets back” Faith claimed.  She grabbed the already toppled box and dumped the remaining contents on the floor, running her hand over top to spread out the contents.

The first box appeared to contain the same items throughout, random bits of paper, pictures of Mom linked arms with different men, her smile in the pictures seeming to grow smaller as her stature deteriorated, earrings without a mate, tickets and mementos from places she no longer went, the occasional bill statement.  Faith sifted through all of these with keen interest, pulling pieces together of the woman who owned those clothes, who once wore perfume, who once smiled, who felt a need to hold onto pieces of this so-called other life.  Faith sorted the box contents, piling papers, bills, and photos into respective piles.  Abandoning her need to make the contents logical, she scooped it up in her arms, and dumped them back into the box and pushed it to the side.

The apartment was hot that day, even with just shorts and a tank top on.   I abandoned my earlier position when my hair started to stick to my legs, and while leaning back with my hands behind me, I stretched my legs out infront of me, knocking over a coffee cup which was less empty than I had assumed.  The cup fell from the edge of the dresser, and the beige liquid soaked into the grey cheap carpet that filled our whole apartment.  

Faith turned her head towards me when she heard the cup fall, and gave me a sarcastic look.

“She’s going to kill you when she sees that, ya know” Faith said, her head bobbling and lip curling slightly as she did so.  I pursed my lips and wrinkled my nose in response to her jab.  

Faith turned her attention to the second box on the shelf, and struggled the same way as the first time to get it down.     

The second box was much different.  It was smaller than the first one and was a simple cardboard box, the top flaps having been folding over themselves to interlock them.  More bills and letters with official looking type were in this box.  Very few pictures lived in this box, and the ones that did, were just of mom alone, tired and gaunt.  Faith was on all fours sweeping the contents of the box around with her hand.  She stopped routing through the contents when she came to a single picture.  She sat up on her haunches, her feet tucked under her as with a photo in her hand.  She held it close to her face, memorizing and sorting out the details of our mother.  She sat that way for quite some time staring at this photo, and without turning to me, she held the photo hand, swung her arm back towards me, with the unspoken command for me to come and fetch it.  

Char gets off her perch reluctantly to get the photo, with some snide comment.  

There was a single picture of Mom’s profile while she was pregnant, her eyes closed and chin nearly touching her chest, emphasising the tightly curved ‘S’ her back had formed. Her belly protruded away from her body, making it seem as though she would have toppled over easily from the weight of carrying twins.