The Black Snow

Little, Brown. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780316376419. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316376440. F
They say you can't go home again, and that's certainly true for Barnabas Kane. After emigrating from Ireland and riveting steel on city skyscrapers for years, Barnabas returns home with his American wife, Eskra, and son Billy. Barnabas buys land and cattle, and the family enjoys a measure of prosperity until a mysterious fire destroys his barn and livestock. Tragically, a farmhand also dies in the fire. Barnabas doesn't want to ask for help, but when he swallows his pride and reaches out, he is met with mistrust and even coldness. He thus finds himself angry and increasingly isolated from Eskra, who cannot believe he canceled their insurance; from sullen teenager Billy, often absent and getting into trouble; and certainly from his neighbors, who call him a "local stranger." Even the family horse takes ill, and their dog disappears. What results is a memorable novel of endurance and the aftermath of tragedy.
VERDICT Following Red Sky in Morning, this novel is appropriately titled. Imagine a dark, damp, cold atmosphere pressing down on remote Irish farmland but also pulling the reader into the narrative of this Irish pastoral novel and into the bleak world of the Kane family. No light reading here but lovely in its own way.

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