‘Mind of Winter’ by Laura Kasischke, Now Playing

‘Mind of Winter’ by Laura Kasischke (2014) – 276 pages

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Ever since I read her first novel, ‘Suspicious River’, I have followed the career of Laura Kasischke with interest.  She has now written nine novels of which three (“Suspicious River,” “The Life Before Her Eyes” and “White Bird in a Blizzard”) have been made into movies.  Her previous novel ‘The Raising’ has also been recently optioned for film.  She has also written eight collections of poetry.  My review of her novel ‘Eden Springs’ can be found here.   ‘The Raising’ was shortlisted for the French literary prize, the Prix Femina; Kasischke is probably more famous in France than she is in the United States.  Meanwhile she remains in her home state of Michigan.

‘Mind of Winter’ begins in a seemingly pleasant suburban setting.  Holly Lodge and her fifteen year old daughter Tatiana are home alone on Christmas morning preparing a dinner for a few relatives and friends.  Husband Eric is off to the airport to pick up his parents for the dinner.  A huge snowstorm develops, and Eric is delayed on his trip home.  Tatiana is flighty and temperamental and locks herself in her room, causing her mother Holly to reflect back on the time when they had adopted Tatiana as a baby.  Holly and Eric had made two trips to Siberia to Pokrovka Orphanage #2 thirteen years ago for the adoption.  The first trip was to pick their baby, and the second three months later to take her home.

As the Christmas snowstorm gets worse and worse, the guests call in to say they are not coming.  With the dinner cancelled, Holly has time to become more and more obsessed about her adopted daughter who is not behaving well at all.

Laura Kasischke writes eerie disturbing novels of menace.  I won’t reveal any more of the plot except to say that ‘Mind of Winter’ is as scary and horrific as its cover indicates.

What stands out about the novel ‘Mind of Winter’?  I think it is the author’s ability to create and sustain a dire foreboding mood with words.  This is where Kasischke’s background as a poet becomes critical.   One gets the impression that every word and every phrase was chosen to create an ominous atmosphere.

And the cat.  The horror of that.  And before that, the hen, their favorite.  How the other chickens had turned on her.  Not even pecked her to death, but pecked her so close to death that she was only a forgotten brokenness, left behind them, as they went on with their lives. 

 The short sentence fragments, every word chosen for its morbid impact.  One could say that this kind of writing is over the top, but sometimes ‘over the top’ is a good thing because it gets the mood across.  We get inside the mind of Holly, and it is not pretty.  Perhaps the best way to describe the writing of Laura Kasischke is that it is a cross between Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King.

I can already see the cameras rolling for the scenes inside Pokrovka Orphanage #2.

 

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9 responses to this post.

  1. I’m so glad you reviewed this as I wasn’t sure whether it would be for me or not but I’d say, yes, definitely. I didn’t see that she was shortlisted for the Prix Femina – it happens to be one of the very rare literary prizes that mostly matches my taste.

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    • Hi Caroline,
      Yes, Kasischke’s novel ‘The Raising’ was nominated for the 2011 Prix Femina. It probably is too soon for ‘Mind of Winter’ to be nominated for any prizes yet. It was a good decision on Laura Kasischke’s part to write in this horrific genre, because that fits well with the movies.

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  2. I’ve never read anything of Laura Kasischke, but I will definitely catch up with her writing. This story is waiting for me on Kindle and now I can’t wait to read it. It sounds like a really great horror 🙂

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    • Hi Bombeletta,
      I had forgotten what I wrote about ‘Eden Springs’ several years ago. It is interesting to read what I wrote back then about one of her lesser known works. Laura Kasischke is quite the prolific writer with all those novels and poetry collections. I believe you will enjoy ‘Mind of Winter’.

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      • I read it yesterday. Whole book at once. Couldn’t stop reading. It was perfectly amazing – I almost cried at the end! I felt so blind myself (just like Holly did), so sad and terrified and the same time. Just wow.

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        • Hi Bombeletta,
          I’m happy you liked it so much. Laura Kasischke is really good at getting inside her characters’ minds and getting at the bad stuff as well as the good stuff there.

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  3. Literary horror would you say? It sounds very interesting. Definitely one to check out.

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  4. […] of Winter (which I discovered on Tony’s Book World here) takes place on December 25, during one snowy day. Holly Judges, a poet, who has been suffering […]

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