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Milchman makes a fine debut

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‘Cover of Snow'

Author: Jenny Milchman

Publisher: Ballantine Books, $26, 336 pages

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Oline H. Cogdill
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 6:21 p.m.
 

A young widow's grief and naiveté evolve into paranoia and a sense that she has no idea what is really going on in the quiet town where she lives in Jenny Milchman's stunning debut.

Milchman tackles small-town angst where evil can simmer under the surface with a breathless energy and a feel for realistic characters.

Nora Hamilton has been launching her career as a house restorer in the lovely town of Wedeskyull, N.Y., located in the Adirondacks, where her husband, Brendan, is a policeman. But her life is shattered when she discovers the body of her husband, who has apparently committed suicide in their home.

Now, Nora not only has to deal with her inconsolable grief, but also the peaceful town seems to have changed overnight. Her mother-in-law, with whom she was never close, becomes increasingly antagonistic toward her. She can't seem to go anywhere without being followed by one of Brendan's fellow cops or the police chief; their excuse is that they are worried about her mental health. Then little things, especially Brendan's mementos, are disappearing from her house. As she looks into Brendan's background, she finds out that she may not have known her husband as well as she thought she did.

In “Cover of Snow,” Milchman expertly shows how Nora, stymied by grief, becomes obsessed with knowing why Brendan killed himself. Had she really not seen that he had been changing in the weeks before his death? Was her marriage not as strong as she thought? Before her husband's death, Nora had felt safe and secure in the town. The frigid air that blows through the town is the perfect metaphor for Nora's feelings of isolation.

Milchman's original approach serves her story well, including the unpredictable resolution.

Oline H. Cogdill is a staff writer for the Sun Sentinel (South Florida).

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