A Vulture Best Short Book
A She Reads Indie Book Club Pick for Summer
“Alexis Smith’s brilliant debut novel is filled with kaleidoscopic pleasures. Line by line, in and out of time, this is a haunted, joyful, beautiful book—a true gift.” —Karen Russell
“Her story could be told in other people’s things. The postcards and the photographs. A garnet ring and a needlepoint of the homestead. The aprons hanging from her kitchen door. Her soft, faded, dog-eared copy of Little House in the Big Woods. A closet full of dresses sewn before she was born. All these things tell a story, but is it hers?”
Isabel is a single twenty-something in Portland, Oregon, who repairs damaged books in the basement of the local library, dreaming of a life she can’t quite reach. She is filled with longing—for a life in Amsterdam even though she’s never visited, for the unrequited love of a coworker, for a simpler time from her childhood in Alaska among the threatened glaciers she loves, and for the perfect vintage dress to wear to a party that just might change everything.
Unfolding over the course of a single day, Alexis M. Smith’s shimmering debut finds Isabel looking into her past—remembering her parents’ separation, a meeting with an astrologer, and a life-changing encounter with a glacier—and shows us how fleeting, everyday moments can reveal an entire life. In classic movies, in old photographs and unsent postcards, rare books, and thrifted gems, Glaciers tells the story of a young woman’s love of the past and a hope to make something new and all her own.
Lyrical and luminous.
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
An Alaskan childhood and dreams of faraway cities such as Amsterdam inform Alexis M. Smith’s Glaciers, a delicate debut novel set in Portland. . . . that reveals in short, memory-soaked postcards of prose a day in the life of twentysomething library worker Isabel.
This novella is a tribute to quiet, meaningful moments: a languid morning, an assessment in a mirror, a chance encounter. Glaciers is unhurried but precise; Glaciers is vast but expertly contained; Glaciers is perfect.
Delighted me the whole way through.
—Maria Semple, New York Times Book Review
A spare, beautifully written first novel.
Truly beautiful and profound.
Glaciers, Alexis Smith’s brilliant debut novel, is filled with kaleidoscopic pleasures. Using prose as clear as pure, cold air, Smith moves the narrative vertically as well as horizontally, each ticking minute yielding more insights into a young woman’s life revealed over one single day. The past, present, and imaginary future stream into beautifully unstable geometries: Isabel’s childhood snows from her youth in Alaska are juxtaposed against her adult trip to a vintage thrift store; her hopes for an evening party push against the echoes of war that haunt a young soldier whom she loves. Line by line, in and out of time, this is a haunted, joyful, beautiful book—a true gift.
A delicate and piercing first novel. Glaciers is like a vintage dress: charming, understated and glinting with memories of loneliness and love.
Alexis M. Smith’s Glaciers is a quietly powerful fairy tale. Smith’s voice, patient and understated and precise captures the poetry of loss and longing.
Glaciers is a carefully precise and beautiful meditation on one young woman’s restless heart. It resonates like a haunting postcard from someone else’s life.
I cannot easily remember the last time I’ve been so deeply moved as in this quiet treasure.
—Douglas A. Martin