Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Snow Apples

Snow Apples

Mary Razzell
For ages 14 and up
Groundwood Books, 2006   ISBN: 978-0888997289

When victory in Europe is declared, sixteen year old Sheila is, of course, pleased that Hitler has been defeated. She is excited to think that her big brother Paul will be coming home. However, she is less than enthusiastic  at the idea that her father will be coming home as well. Her relationship with her mother is strained enough as it is when he isn’t there, and when he is around, things are always a lot worse.

While they wait to see what will happen next, life goes on. Sheila’s mother buys some land and begins to have a house built on it. Sheila meets and starts to go out with a young man called Nels. Nels is enormously attractive, but in many ways he is nothing like Sheila. He quit school as soon as he could, whereas Sheila is determined to stay in school as long as she can, and she really wants to go on to university or nursing school. Sheila loves to read classic literature, and Nels’ books of choice are comic books. Nels wants to settle down and get married as soon as possible, but Sheila is no hurry. There is so much that she wants to do first, so Sheila resists Nels’ advances, letting him go only so far. Until one night when she can hold him off no longer. The result of their time together is disastrous. Sheila’s mother knows full well what has happened and she goes on the rampage. Mortified by her mother’s behavior and shunned by Nels, Sheila decides to get work away from her hometown for a while. She leaves carrying the burden of  terrible secret, which she hopes she will be able to deal with away from the prying eyes of her friends and family; she is pregnant.

Set in rural British Columbia in the 1940’s, this often disturbing novel will show readers how hard young women with hopes and dreams had to struggle against not only a sexist society, but also against the resistance of their own families. Sheila’s mother was not allowed to pursue an education, and yet she cannot or will not see how much Sheila wants and needs to make something of herself. Sheila is constantly having to battle against her mother’s own misery, anger and frustrations, but in the end Sheila comes to better understand why her mother behaves the way she does.

Sharing some of Sheila’s heartbreaking experiences can be painful, but there can be no doubt that this strong willed and determined young woman has enormous appeal. Beautifully written, this is a book which captures the complex relationships which can make up a family, and it also captures the essence of era.