“Snow Blind” by Elizabeth Strout c. 2015 (pages 306-319 in The O. Henry Prize Stories–originally published in Virginia Quarterly Review)

A short story that illustrates the “Iceberg Theory,” as it manages to convey much using few words. The expansive arc of this story encompasses a girl growing up and going away, realizing a dark truth about her family in the process.

Sentences Worth Studying

  • “Back then the road they lived on was a dirt road and they lived on the end of it, about a mile from Route 4. This was in the north in the potato country, and back when the Appleby children were small and the winters were icy and snow-filled and there were months when the road seemed impossibly narrow. Weather was different then, like a family member you couldn’t avoid. You took it without thinking much” (306).
  • “Her grandmother’s house was a small square house, and in the long white months of winter the house seemed stark and bare naked, the windows like eyes stuck open, looking toward the farm” (308).
  • “When Annie was in the fifth grade, she began staying at Charlene Daigle’s house more. Anne was still lively and talked incessantly, but there had been an incident with the long-forgotten tape recorder—a secret she shared with Jamie—and ever since the incident it was as though a skin was compressed round her own family; the farm, her quiet brother, her sulky sister, her smiling mother, who often said ‘I feel sorry for the Daigles. He’s always so grumpy and he yells at the kids. We’re awfully lucky to have a happy family’” (309).
  • “What Annie did not say was that there were many ways of not knowing things; her own experience over the years now spread like a piece of knitting in her lap with shadows all through it . . . She had recently, though, had fantasies of what they called ‘going normal.’ Having a house and a husband and children and a garden. The quietness of all that. But what would she do with all the feelings that streamed down her like small rivers? It was not the sound of applause that Annie liked—in fact, she often barely heard it—it was the moment onstage when she knew she had left the world and joined fully another. Not unlike the feelings of ecstasy she’d had in the woods as a child” (316).
  • “She looked around the small kitchen, the wallpaper that had water stains streaking down it, the rocking chair their father had always sat in, the cushion now with a rip large enough to show the stuffing, the teakettle on the stove that had been the same one for years, the curtain across the top of the window with a fine spray of cobwebs between it and the pane. Annie looked back at her siblings. They may not have felt the dread that poor Charlene had lived with. But the truth was always there. They had grown up on shame; it was the nutrient of their soil” (318).

About Kelsey Maki

writer and English professor
This entry was posted in book, fiction, sentences, short story, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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