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Winter: Essential Reading

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This month, Literary Mama staffers across the globe share their favorite winter titles. Whether you're shivering in a cold locale, or yearning for snow from a warmer climate, we suggest you spend some time this winter snuggled up with these great books.

Sarah Raleigh Kilts, Literary Reflections Editorial Assistant, writes "I'm partial to Midwives by Chris Bohjalian, which is set in my wintery home state of Vermont. While attending to a home birth during a particularly harsh ice storm, respected midwife Sibyl Danforth is forced to make difficult choices. Her assistant later second-guesses Sibyl's emergency decisions, and the midwife is put on trial for manslaughter. Caution: the birth scene in this book is explicit and often revisited throughout the legal battle -- I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who is currently pregnant! I read this book in two white-knuckled sittings, and it still haunts me."


Alissa McElreath, Columns Co-Editor, suggests one of her favorite books- Philip Larkin's A Girl in Winter. She writes, "While the winter in the book is largely metaphorical, Larkin perfectly captures the fear and uncertainty 22-year old Katherine Lind--a refugee from Europe--feels as she attempts to negotiate the cold, wintry and decidedly unfriendly landscape of England during WWII."

Rebecca Kaminsky, Reviews Editor and Columnist, nominates The Call of the Wild by Jack London. She writes, "I read it as a teen and I'll never forget the scenes of him trying to strike a match in the frozen tundra."

Kristina Riggle, Fiction Co-Editor, recommends Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. "I read this entire series as a girl and the book captivated me with its description of the family's sparse, yet joyous, Christmas. I also realized how lucky I was to have a warm bed and forced-air heat when I read about the hazardous frontier winter."

Suzanne Kamata, Fiction Editor, adds "I loved Smilla's Sense of Snow" by Peter Hoeg. The setting was unusual, the plot suspenseful, and the heroine was both tough and tender. "

Susan Ito, Creative Nonfiction Editor and Columnist, recommends " The Donner Party, by George Keithley. It's a book-length poem that is stunningly beautiful, moving and tragic. It's actually an incredibly powerful story about family."

C. Delia Scarpitti, Columns Co-Editor, recently finished reading "Vendela Vida's amazing novel, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name . This book follows a beautifully rendered character, Clarissa Iverton, as she journeys through the secret history of her family and childhood to come to terms with the bitter realities of her relationship with her mother and the circumstances surrounding her birth. The book is set in Lapland, north of the Artic Circle. The harsh winter weather includes ice hotels and blizzard conditions and is an integral part of revealing the inner circumstances of the individual characters. Highly recommended!"

Irena Smith, Columns Editorial Assistant, names Anya Ulinich's Petropolis, as "one of the most phenomenal books I've read in a long time. It begins in Asbestos 2 -- a frozen, desolate little Siberian town in the post-Soviet era -- and follows the protagonist, 14 year-old Sasha Goldberg, through a brief stint in art school, a bittersweet romance, a journey as a mail-order bride to, of all places, Arizona, and then across the U.S. as she searches for her father. The book is surreal, bitingly funny, wrenchingly sad, and luminously written, with plot twists that seem as natural as they are wildly unexpected. What is more, it gives you a bone-deep appreciation of the Siberian cold, which plays a key role throughout the book."

Finally, Amy Mercer, Blog Editor, adds Amy Bloom's Away to the list. " Away is the story of Lillian Leyb, 'a dangerous innocent, an accidental heroine.' When her family is murdered in Russia, Lillian comes to America alone, determined to make her way in a new land. When word comes that her daughter, Sophie, might still be alive, Lillian embarks on an odyssey that takes her from New York's Lower East Side to Alaska, toward Siberia to find her daughter. Bloom's descriptions of Lillian's trek through the cold wilderness of Alaska made me burrow down under my covers each night."


Violeta Garcia-Mendoza’s poetry and fiction have recently appeared in Kestrel, Coal Hill Review, and Cicada. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and two daughters.


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