A darkly luminous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Hours
Michael Cunningham's luminous novel begins with a vision. It's November 2004. Barrett Meeks, having lost love yet again, is walking through Central Park when he is inspired to look up at the sky; there he sees a pale, translucent light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Barrett doesn't believe in visions—or in God—but he can't deny what he's seen.
At the same time, in the not-quite-gentrified Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tyler, Barrett's older brother, a struggling musician, is trying—and failing—to write a wedding song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Tyler is determined to write a song that will be not merely a sentimental ballad but an enduring expression of love.
Barrett, haunted by the light, turns unexpectedly to religion. Tyler grows increasingly convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers. Beth tries to face mortality with as much courage as she can summon.
Cunningham follows the Meeks brothers as each travels down a different path in his search for transcendence. In subtle, lucid prose, he demonstrates a profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of what lies at the core of the human soul.
The Snow Queen, beautiful and heartbreaking, comic and tragic, proves again that Cunningham is one of the great novelists of his generation.
Two brothers grapple with aging, loss, and spirituality in this haunting sixth novel from the author of The Hours and By Nightfall. Barrett Meeks, a middle-aged retail worker with boyfriend troubles, is walking through Central Park one evening when he notices a mysterious light in the sky a light he can't help but feel is "apprehending ... as he imagined a whale might apprehend a swimmer, with a grave and regal and utterly unfrightened curiosity." Uncertain what to make of his vision, Barrett returns to the Bushwick, Brooklyn, apartment he shares with his drug-addicted brother, Tyler, and Tyler's wife, Beth, whose cancer has come to dominate the brothers' attention. As ever, Cunningham has a way with run-on sentences, and the novel's lengthy monologues run the gamut from mortality to post-2000 New York City. But at its heart, Cunningham's story is about family, and how we reconcile our closest human relationships with our innermost thoughts, hopes, and fears. Tyler and Barrett have "a certain feral knowledge of each other" and enjoy "the quietude of growing up together." They connect over Beth's illness, and contemplate the unique pressures of dying before one's time. "Did Persephone sometimes find the summer sun too hot, the flowers more gaudy than beautiful?" Beth wonders. "Did she ever, even briefly, think fondly of the dim silence of Hades?" Cunningham has not attempted to answer any of life's great questions here, but his poignant and heartfelt novel raises them in spades.