National Book Award Finalist: Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin
This post reviews another of the finalists for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature which was awarded last night to Sherman Alexie for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (reviewed in my post of November 13).
"The way to avoid being picked on by high school bullies is to kill someone."
It's a hard-knock life for real for middle child Karina, caught between dutiful older sister Enid and bright, pious Delta, her hard-working Haitian immigrant mother and her step-father "the Daddy," who beats them all mercilessly, even the babies Roland and Gerald, for violating any of the household's capricious rules.
When Enid is attacked so violently that her aunts and grandmother fear for her life, an anonymous caller tips off the welfare authorities and the police, who charge Gaston with child abuse. Fearing the loss of his income and their modest but safe house in a New York suburb, Karina's family encourages her to deny the abuse by claiming that Enid's injuries are the result of a argument between the sisters.
When Gaston returns to the household, the sisters turn to a local community center as an after school refuge, where Karina has found an ally in Rachael Levinson, the director's daughter. But as they dress in costumes to go to Rachael's Halloween party, the Daddy's imminent attack on Karina forces the girls to make an irrevocable decision, one which will change their lives forever.
This is a moving first novel which from its first words draws readers into a river of hypnotic dialog and description. Dealing honestly as it does with a girl's coming of age in a family caught between their Haitian customs and life in America, poverty and hope, subjugation and freedom for women, and the ultimate choice between two evils, Touching Snow is a tough novel worth of its designation as finalist for the 2007 National Book Award.