cover image Ways to Hide in Winter

Ways to Hide in Winter

Sarah St. Vincent. Melville House, $25.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-61219-720-3

Kathleen McElwain, the narrator of St. Vincent’s outstanding first novel, became a widow at 22 when her husband died in a car crash. Now 27, she works in a store “tucked away in the forgotten forests of Pennsylvania, high in the northernmost tendrils of the Blue Ridge Mountains.” There, she makes coffee and hamburgers for the occasional hunter or hiker, but most of the time she’s engrossed in a book, relishing the solitude of not seeing another person for days. Late one snowy afternoon, she’s surprised when a stranger shows up, not dressed for winter and seemingly without any transportation. Daniil—he doesn’t give a last name—says he’s a student from Uzbekistan. Kathleen becomes inexplicably drawn to Daniil, whose stories make her wonder about finally leaving the area. Eventually, he admits to her he’s wanted for a serious crime in his home country. Kathleen’s emotions are on high alert when she discovers an odd connection to Daniil’s past and the secrets of her marriage. Against the background of the “war on terror,” St. Vincent sensitively explores her believable characters’ motives in this tightly plotted tale. Agent: Stacia Decker, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary. (Nov.)