by syaffolee

Smilla’s Sense of Snow
Peter Høeg

The authorities say that a small boy played along the roof and then fell to his death. They close the case. But Isaiah’s neighbor, Smilla Jaspersen knows they’re wrong. She has a “sense of snow” and the boy’s footprints doesn’t look like he had been playing. They looked like he had been running away from something. Or someone.

The novel is a mix between character study and action adventure. Smilla is a tough, cold heroine–bitter, cynical, and not entirely likeable. But she has fears, insecurities, and vulnerabilities: her relationship with her father, her fears of commitment, her dual cultural identity. She’s tactless and violent. She’s smart. And she likes nice clothes.

Høeg’s descriptions of the secondary characters are also just as quirky. The mysterious mechanic who is a stutterer and a dyslexic also knows how to tape phones and rig doors in case a third party is listening or breaking into an apartment. The former secretary of the Cryolite Corporation who is ultra-religious and rule-abiding decides to help Smilla on her quest. And of course, there are others, too numerous to list here.

The turn in believability, however, came when a forensics expert and Smilla’s father (also a doctor) helps her identify some x-rays. Their speculations bordered, well, on the science fiction. It came as no surprise, then, that the big bad villain is none other than an unscrupulous ex-microbiologist with a miserable childhood, involved in drug trafficking, and obsessed with fame and glory.

The author was definitely on the roll with his depictions of psychological motivations (and his not so subtle dig of the mathematician trumping the biologist) but I found the last part, especially the plot, tacked on as if it was required to be there to become an international bestseller.

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The Thursday Threesome: Health, Wealth and Happiness

Onesome: Health- A loved one dies unexpectedly. You’re the next of kin. Do you donate whatever organs are useful, or does the idea freak you out? Should someone have planned ahead?

I don’t know. To be honest, if someone close to me died, the shock would be great enough that I wouldn’t be thinking about anything let alone organ donations. I think I still have enough cultural hang-ups that I would hesitate to donate organs that weren’t mine.

Twosome: Wealth- Your beloved Great Aunt Fern dies and leaves you two million dollars (after taxes!). But there’s a catch. You have to spend it all in 24 hours. Buying stocks and bonds doesn’t count and there’s a $500,000 limit on a new home. You may give some of the money to charity, but don’t use it as a cheat to make it work out. How would you spend the money?

I suppose the answer you’re looking for isn’t supposed to be altruistic. Well, I’ll spend it on books. Maybe a computer or some other techno-gadget. And getting rid of my college expenses.

Threesome: Happiness- John F. Kennedy defined happiness as “The full use of your powers along lines of excellence.” What is your definition of happiness? Have you attained it?

I don’t think anyone can obtain absolute happiness. Relative happiness and contentedness, perhaps. I guess the key is to do what you want to do. Don’t let anyone force you to do or be anything that is their idea of the perfect decision.