cover image Snowflake


Louise Nealon. Harper, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-307393-7

In this fresh and often humorous debut, Nealon follows a wry young Irish woman as she negotiates family burdens. After insecure narrator Deborah leaves her family’s dairy farm in rural Kildare County for Trinity College, she doesn’t exactly blossom—“The only thing I’m learning in college is how to hide”—but she does befriend Xanthe, a rich, glamorous student with whom she shares a fascination with and jealousy of the other’s lifestyle (Xanthe finds it “amazing” that Deborah comes from the “proper countryside”; Deborah thinks five euros for a cup of tea is “daylight robbery”). While Deborah struggles to adjust to college life, her family begins to crack under long-simmering tensions. Her single mother, Maeve, who claims not to know the identity of Deborah’s father, is dating a farmworker not much older than her daughter and has a penchant for “inhaling fresh whiffs of reality and exhaling her own mystery.” Billy, her gruff yet caring uncle, lives in a caravan on the farm and strives to protect Deborah from her mother’s mood swings. The Dublin scenes don’t particularly stand out from myriad other campus novels, but the narrative acquires a burnishing glow once outside the confines of academe. When on the farm, this tale of two worlds vibrates on an otherworldly frequency. Agent: Marianne Gunn Connor, Marianne Gunn O’Connor Literary. (Sept.)