Up front: it’s really hard for me to discuss this book without at least alluding to the ending, because that was the only part I really didn’t like. That being said, I didn’t like it because it was unexpected in a very jarring way, so maybe if I’d had it slightly spoiled for me, I could have been prepared for a major tonal shift and liked it more. Not sure. But maybe skip this review if you don’t want anything spoiled.
Snow in August takes place in Brooklyn in 1947. 11 year old Michael Devlin is an Irish Catholic boy living with his widowed mother. An experience with a local rabbi (who I loved — a really great character) and Jackie Robinson’s poor treatment at the hands of Dodger fans opens young Michael’s eyes to the prejudices and dangers in his neighborhood, and the world.
I really enjoyed the story — Michael begins to teach the rabbi English, and learns some Yiddish in return, and I loved their time together. The neighborhood bullies, representing enemies of justice worldwide, came across as appropriately scary. What I didn’t like was the sudden sharp turn into fantasy (and yeah, maybe it should be called a miracle since it’s in a religious context. but it comes across as fantasy) in the last maybe 50 pages of the novel. I felt like there was no set up for this in the novel. Isabel Allende writes magic realism, and there’s always little hints and background events that allude to that as you go along. Snow in August comes across as incredibly real — the racism, the poverty, the horrors of war — until the very end when a magical being saves the day. It ruined the whole thing for me.