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The Snow Queen

Hardcover : 272 pages
Published by Farrar,
Straus & Giroux

May, 2014

•  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.

   »   Read an Excerpt
   »   Get the Reading Group Guide [pdf]

Reviews for The Snow Queen:
Ron Charles, The Washington Post:
“Regardless of your theological position on signs and wonders, that voice, Cunningham’s inimitable style, is the real miracle of The Snow Queen. Sentence by sentence . . . he moves across the surface of these pages like some suave, literary god. His portrayal of the once-blessed Meeks brothers, raised in expectation of fame and riches they’ll never attain—not even close—is full of affecting pathos.”

Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times:
“Michael Cunningham’s resonant new novel . . . is arguably [his] most original and emotionally piercing book to date. It’s a novel that does not rely heavily on literary allusions and echoes for its power—a story that showcases the author’s strengths as a writer . . . while creating a potent portrait of two brothers and their urgent midlife yearning to find some sense of purpose and belonging . . . He artfully allows the reader direct access to [his characters’] hearts and minds by using his gift for empathy and his own brand of stream of consciousness . . . A the same time, Mr. Cunningham provides an impressionistic portrait of Brooklyn, circa 2004, and of the East Village, some four years later . . . These snapshots attest to his ability to give us an intimate sense of his characters’ daily lives, while situating their hopes and dreams within the context of two moments in history already slipping by.”

Megan O’Grady, Vogue:
“[T]he pursuit of transcendence in all kinds of forms—music, drugs, a McQueen minidress, and those things less tangible but no less powerfully felt—drives Michael Cunningham's best novel in more than a decade, The Snow Queen.”

Allie Ghaman, The Washington Post:
“Cunningham weaves an ode to the immortal city of New York and its artistic souls and lost citizens. His books remind us that the mythologies we imagine about our lives stem from seemingly ordinary moments and seemingly ordinary people . . . With elegant prose that peeks into the most private thoughts of his characters, Cunningham challenges the reader to imagine a pervasive, indifferent god—if any god even exists.”

Christina Wolfgram, Los Angeles Magazine:
“The same masterful language that earned Cunningham a Pulitzer for The Hours in 1998 elevates this story . . . to a gratifying examination of transcendence in ordinary life . . . Overall, The Snow Queen proves to be a fulfilling literary experience, especially for fans of Cunningham’s previous work.”

Alex Gilvarry, New Orleans Public Radio:
“Michael Cunningham is known for his lyric and evocative language, and his sixth novel, The Snow Queen, is no exception . . . An emotionally charged story, simply told, about four people who come to defy that term ‘middle age.’”

Earl Pike, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland):
“Michael Cunningham is among America’s most gifted writers: graceful, delicately hued, wise.”

Martha T. Moore, USA Today:
“The Snow Queen wears its contemporaneity lightly, because the novel really concerns itself with eternal themes: the quest for love, the unfairness and inevitability of death and the hope of a meaningful life . . . [A] thoughtful, intimate novel.”