cover image The Edge of Winter

The Edge of Winter

Luanne Rice, . . Bantam, $24 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-553-80527-7

A maimed owl and a sunken U-boat spark an inordinate amount of activism, romance and multigenerational family healing in this winsome melodrama. Out to observe a single rare snowy owl, high school beauty and passionate bird-watcher Mickey crashes her bicycle and goes sailing into the arms of soulful surfer-dude Shane. She joins his guerrilla campaign to prevent greedy developer Cole Landry from raising said U-boat from its resting place just off their local Rhode Island beach, where the underwater hulk churns up sublimely gnarly waves. Meanwhile, Mickey's struggling divorced mom, Neve, falls for hunky park ranger Tim, who has his own anguished reasons for revering the submarine. When the developer's son, Josh, bashes the owl with a log, Mickey, Shane and Neve take it to an ancient raptor healer, who, in an unsurprising coincidence, turns out to be Tim's estranged dad, Joe O'Casey, the commander of the navy ship that sank the U-boat. From this tangle of totems and relationships erupts a torrent of emotional catharsis and romantic rapture that salves the psychic scars of war. Yes, it's saccharine (" 'Love's what counts in this world... even for snowy owls' ") and soap-operatic, but Rice (Sandcastles ) draws her cast of appealing characters sharply, from overexcitable teens to disarmingly deadbeat dads, and her significant storytelling skills are fully deployed. (Feb. 27)