Book Review: Frozen by Mary Casanova

Book Review: Frozen by Mary Casanova

Sadie Rose was rescued from death at age five when she was pulled from a snowbank in the middle of a cold Minnesota night, and hasn’t said a word since. Raised by the wealthy Worthingtons, a senator and his wife, Sadie Rose lives a comfortable but cheerless life in 1920s-era rural Minnesota, protected from all outside forces and influences, seeking shelter in her piano music and random hobbies, with no knowledge or memory of her origins. Until, that is, the fateful day arrives when Sadie discovers a cache of hidden photos of a glamorous, scandalous woman, and recognizes this stranger as her long-lost mother, Bella Rose.

Bit by bit, Sadie recovers pieces of the past, as she recalls her early years living in the brothel where her mother worked, until her mother’s death on the same night that Sadie was pulled from the snow. Bella Rose’s untimely demise was attributed to drink and wantonness, as she was found frozen to death with an empty bottle in her lifeless hand. As Sadie’s memory returns, she realizes that there is more to the story, and as she uncovers the truth, she also rediscovers her own ability to speak.

Frozen is set in northern Minnesota, in a small town on the banks of the great lake separating Minnesota from Canada. Prohibition is the law of the land, and moonshine and smuggling are a way of life. A powerful lumber baron controls everything and everyone in the area, and to cross him is to risk one’s life. Women’s suffrage is gaining momentum, a small group of environmentalists is trying to stop the clear-cutting practices of the lumber industry, and loose women still find ready employment in the wilds of the frontier towns.

The author does a nice job conveying the atmosphere of the time and place in which the story is set, and yet I was left wishing for a bit more meat in the story. Sadie’s journey from silence to finding a voice of her own is a bit sudden, and the catalyst of her transformation — finding her mother’s pictures — wasn’t as clearly defined as it should have been. Frozen has almost too many plot threads — a love story, a mentally ill friend, the investigation into her mother’s past, the environmental protests, local politics — and it’s really more than can be sustained by such a slim tale. The climax and denouement came a bit too easily, and I found the ending unconvincing.

Frozen is being marketed as a young adult novel, and I would imagine that teens interested in a historical setting would enjoy this. For me, as an adult who often adores YA fiction, Frozen fell a little short — a nice effort, pleasant to read, but not substantial enough to feel satisfying.

Review copy courtesy of University of Minnesota Press via NetGalley.

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