Danya Kukafka’s debut novel, Girl in Snow, earned copious praise from anybody who’s anybody in the book world and it’s easy to see why everyone was hyped up.
When they told him Lucinda Hayes was dead, Cameron thought of her shoulder blades and how they framed her naked spine, like a pair of static lungs.
Kukafka’s novel is a sort of mystery, but not in the traditional sense. Lucinda, a popular 15- year-old, is discovered in the playground of the elementary school. She’s been murdered. Lucinda’s death is certain in the incident that kicks the novel off, but it’s the three-person narrative that keeps its motor running.
First there’s Cameron, the boy who loved Lucinda from afar. Perhaps saying Cameron ‘loved’ her isn’t quite the right word. He watched her obsessively. He drew her. He feels like he knew her better than anyone, “The way her legs flew out when she ran…How her hair got frizzy at the front when she walked home from school in the heat….the way she squinted when she couldn’t see the board.” When Lucinda’s body is found, Cameron is one of the first suspects because a classmate had once told a teacher that Cameron “was the sort of kid who would bring a gun to school.”
Then there’s Jade. When she hears the news of Lucinda’s death she says that “faking shock is easier than faking sadness.” Jade lives with her mother and sister and I wouldn’t characterize her life as necessarily happy. She resented Lucinda, and so her classmate’s death inspires little more than antipathy.
Finally, there’s Russ, a local cop who used to be Cameron’s father’s partner before he did a runner, leaving his wife and son behind. He feels protective towards Cameron and his feelings are further complicated by the feelings he had for Cameron’s father, Lee. He is also suspicious of his wife, Ines’, ex-con brother, Ivan, who just happens to be the person who discovered Lucinda’s body.
It is through the lens of these characters that we see Lucinda. I wouldn’t say that Girl in Snow is a page-turner, but that’s because these are complicated people with complicated feelings and Kukafka cares about every word she writes. This is a book to be savoured and these are characters you won’t soon forget.