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Avalanche disaster sets book's tone


Whiter Than Snow

Whiter Than Snow

By Sandra Dallas

($24.99, St. Martin's Press)

On April 20, 1920, amid the endless snow of the little mining town of Swandyke, Colorado, an avalanche rushes down Jubilee Mountain. Nine children are caught up in it; only four survive. Thus ends Chapter One of Sandra Dallas' new book, "Whiter Than Snow."

The backstories follow, some lives starting out plump with promise and others swollen with misery. We become acquainted with a girl raised in wealth and privilege, another from poverty, a boy who runs off to fight in the Civil War. They all encounter reversals of fortune caused by life-changing deceptions.

Dallas peoples this novel with such a diverse assemblage of characters that it is not possible to imagine how she will bring them all together cohesively. There are some areas where the story seems disjointed, but she manages to hold the reader's interest by giving substance to her characters and adding descriptive details that convey meaning beyond her words. She describes one person's childhood pleasures by saying that he "walked along the country roads, barefoot as a duck..." Picture that.

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