It’s often said that there are two types of stories: A person goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. In her debut novel, Sarah St. Vincent goes with option two: Ways to Hide in Winter opens with the arrival of a mysterious man in the Pennsylvania wilderness.
Both hunting season and tourism season are well over when the man, Daniil, stumbles over the snowy threshold of the hostel where Kathleen works. It’s obvious he’s not from the region, but Kathleen, who has chosen her job partly for its isolation, isn’t interested in prying into someone’s past. At 26, she’s been a widow for more than four years and is still recovering from the car accident that killed her husband. She also holds secrets about their marriage that she’s unwilling to reveal.
As she gets to know Daniil, Kathleen grows curious about what caused him to leave Uzbekistan. As she learns about the country’s troubled history, she finds herself unable to continue to compartmentalize her own past. Both Daniil and Kathleen carry the guilt of secrets and betrayal—but do they deserve to? Can you move on from your past after causing or enduring suffering?
St. Vincent, a lawyer who has worked with the Human Rights Watch, has vast experience with these questions, and readers unfamiliar with Uzbekistan’s human rights history (likely most of them) will find this novel especially eye-opening. Ways to Hide in Winter makes it clear that you can hide for a season, but spring thaw will catch up to you eventually.
This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.