Ivan Basterache and his wife pregnant wife Cindi have a heated argument over money – bills are torn up, chairs are smashed, food is thrown. Cindi gets so upset she takes a seizure, falls and gives herself a black eye. The fight is bad, for sure, but neither are prepared for what happens next.
Cindi’s black eye wins her the sympathy of the community, old ‘friends’ take her in, encourage her to leave Ivan, who has always been a troublemaker. Ivan is ostracized as the rumours swirl that he beat her, hit her in the stomach, caused her to lose the baby.
Richards has recreated a slice of rural Maritime life, not the kitschy and quaint lifestyle we like to portray, but one of old traditions, hard times, cliques and long entrenched prejudices.
“Money had nothing to do with it, nor did age. But still, the two groups could be defined. Education might be the key – but that was not true either, although people who wished to make simplistic judgements would use the criteria of money, age, and education to accredit the difference.”
With the community, his former friends and even (most especially) his father against him, Ivan doesn’t have a hope in hell. Yet as the story progresses, he quickly becomes the most sympathetic character. Far from perfect, and with a temper he needs to control, but he and the old doctor seem to be the only ones with Cindi’s best interests at heart.
“There are lots of was people hide bigotry from themselves,” the doctor mumbled. “Today’s way is progressive concern.”
Cindi is perhaps the most difficult character to accept. It takes her weeks to speak up in her husband’s defence, and even then it is a weak effort. She is described as ‘slow,’ having repeated multiple grades through high school, and only graduating so the system could be rid of her. She is an epileptic, and prone to depression. Not taking her medication, drinking to excess and desperate to belong somewhere, she is easily led by the stronger, wilful Ruby.
“Cindi’s life that summer was like a movie, where all her friends were tantalized by and hoping secretly for more stories to come out of this affair, while telling each other they were not, and hoping it would end.”
Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace is one of those rare stories where no character is entirely blameless, yet all are difficult to dismiss outright. Even Anthony, who you want to hate for his selfish stupidity, has devoted his life to his daughters and has a back-story that wins at least a little sympathy.
Having read a long series of disappointing books so far in 2012, I was thrilled to find a novel with such depth, a story that truly touched me. This is the first of Richards’ books I have read. It will not be the last.
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Emblem Editions (Sep 11 2000)