Danya Kukafka’s debut novel is almost as hard to categorise as it was to let go of. In that, it hints throughout its telling as being a story about a murder, and the clues and processes that follow in the hopeful nabbing of a suspect. But its actual genius is in its telling – Kukafka’s prose is structured from three points of view, from three very distinct characters, whose voices and narrative structure distinguish themselves.
It’s a murder mystery, in part. But it is also a trio of character studies which are as unique as their insight verges on the profound. Added to all this is the significant confidence, competence and assuredness of the writing; the author clearly has a deep knowledge of the setting and character archetypes; her characters occupy spaces between dark humour, grizzled experience and significant mental anxiety.
Girl in Snow is a novel broken into three distinct narrative voices. The book revolves around the aftermath of the death of a local Colorado teenage girl, Lucinda. We have one perspective from a 15-year-old boy, Cameron – a troubled, challenged, but seriously creative boy who had obsessed over the victim for a long while. Then there is Jade, the envious classmate of Lucinda’s, who sees the life and very existence of Lucinda is being the antithesis of her own. The third is Russ, the police officer charged with investigating the murder, but is more consumed by the life of the son of his former partner.
The book is one which looks at great depth at the very notion of an individual’s identity, both in the way it is self-perceived, as well as how it is seen by others. It is through this insight that Kukafka lifts the veil on how external perceptions can have a serious, almost fatal effect on one’s worth. The voices she inhabits are distinct: from Cameron’s self-crafted descriptors for his mental processes; Jade’s penning a screenplay for how she wishes her encounters unfold; Russ’ flow of words, much like a stream of consciousness – his thoughts too busy, so much so that he appears too preoccupied for grammar. It’s a small, but effective touch.
Girl in Snow is a stunning debut; one which provides evocative and vivid language and structure to place this essential whodunit into the realm of fine literature.
A great writer emerges here, and pens one of the year’s best books.
$29.99, trade paperback