Another from the Macmillan New Writers series and this one eased itself into the moment with precision. Waddling around in my bombazine gown I felt in need of a good snowstorm, preferably descending on an un-nineteenth century Christmas Eve, bit of intrigue, some small town America and a page turner.
Not a big ask really and a good thing that I had A Town Called Immaculate by Peter Anthony standing by.
Off to winter in Minnesota then, so good guarantees of a white Christmas perhaps a bit of skater's waltz stuff and there's only one other thing I know for sure about Minnesota because I've read Garrison Keillor. They drill holes in the ice and fish through them, so I knew exactly what Peter Anthony was talking about in the first chapter. To my uncertain knowledge Immaculate is a fictional setting but I was already holding my breath as the two young Marak brothers, Ethan and Jacob drilled their ice holes.
For their parents, Vietnam veteran Ray and his wife Renee, life on their failing farm is becoming a battle against mounting debts and bank foreclosure but they have ridden the storms seemingly well until the stonker of a real blizzard that's heading their way on Christmas Eve provides the setting for everything else to unravel. Secrets always emerge from beneath the muffled safety of an all-enveloping blanket of snow and it's only a matter of time before all is revealed.
It is indeed about family, fidelity and the fragility of it all handled in very readable style by Peter Anthony.For my sins I did skip a rather lengthy (for me) Midnight Mass sermon from Father Dimer in the middle but for others this will all add to the appeal of the book, I meanwhile will just carry on in my state of gentle and lapsed Anglican uncertainty.
Ray has clearly been to hell and back in Vietnam and bears the scars both physical and emotional but Peter Anthony doesn't over-egg this aspect, working it all into the plot discreetly yet very movingly. Ray is a wise, pragmatic,sensible and loving father and employer. There's a fine moment in the milking parlour when he talks his herdsman, Joachim, out of a moment of revenge, culminating in this bit of wisdom over the udders,
'Pride is gonna eat at you all week...all month. Ten years from now, out of the blue you will feel it sopping you up one day. That's the hurt that never stops.Pride. Pride makes you ready to cash it all in for one moment of revenge.'
I sensed that Ray knew exactly what he was talking about. He'd been there.
Renee likewise a kind, understanding mother, they make perfect parents and you can but hope for good outcomes as you read, because you desperately want all to be well with this family.
As to whether it is or not, well as if I'd tell you, but I enjoyed Peter Anthony's writing, a great wintery Christmas read, a brief escape from the perils of the nineteenth century, and now I must go in search of more snowy reads until we get some of the real thing when I can really put my new cloak and bonnet to the test.