Winner of the 2019 Pinckley Prize for Debut Novel
"[An] atmospheric suspense novel . . . Pick it up now." —O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE
In the wintery silences of Pennsylvania’s Blue Ridge Mountains, a woman befriends a mysterious foreigner—setting in motion this suspenseful, atmospheric, politically charged debut
After surviving a life-altering accident at twenty-two, Kathleen recuperates by retreating to a remote campground lodge in a state park, where she works flipping burgers for deer hunters and hikers—happy, she insists, to be left alone.
But when a hesitant, heavily accented stranger appears in the dead of winter—seemingly out of nowhere, kicking snow from his flimsy dress shoes—the wary Kathleen is intrigued, despite herself. He says he’s a student from Uzbekistan. To her he seems shell-shocked, clearly hiding from something that terrifies him. And as she becomes absorbed in his secrets, she’s forced to confront her own—even as her awareness of being in danger grows . . .
Steeped in the rugged beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with America’s war on terror raging in the background, Sarah St.Vincent’s Ways to Hide in Winter is a powerful story about violence and redemption, betrayal and empathy . . . and how we reconcile the unforgivable in those we love.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Deep in the Blue Ridge wilderness, Kathleen McElwain gets by on isolation, anonymity, and illegally procured pills that temporarily mute traumas from her recent past. But when a mysterious Eastern European stranger appears in town, Kathleen is forced to reckon with demons old and new. In her spellbinding debut, Human Rights Watch researcher Sarah St.Vincent crisply captures the majesty and claustrophobia of remote East Coast winters—and the insidious devastation of domestic abuse. Powerful and finely told, Ways to Hide in Winter lingered in our imaginations.
Kathleen McElwain, the narrator of St. Vincent's outstanding first novel, became a widow at 22 when her husband died in a car crash. Now 27, she works in a store "tucked away in the forgotten forests of Pennsylvania, high in the northernmost tendrils of the Blue Ridge Mountains." There, she makes coffee and hamburgers for the occasional hunter or hiker, but most of the time she's engrossed in a book, relishing the solitude of not seeing another person for days. Late one snowy afternoon, she's surprised when a stranger shows up, not dressed for winter and seemingly without any transportation. Daniil he doesn't give a last name says he's a student from Uzbekistan. Kathleen becomes inexplicably drawn to Daniil, whose stories make her wonder about finally leaving the area. Eventually, he admits to her he's wanted for a serious crime in his home country. Kathleen's emotions are on high alert when she discovers an odd connection to Daniil's past and the secrets of her marriage. Against the background of the "war on terror," St. Vincent sensitively explores her believable characters' motives in this tightly plotted tale.