Let’s cut to the chase: Louise Nealon’s Snowflake is one of the most heartwarming, honest and brilliant coming-of-age novels you will read this year.
Nealon’s debut is set on a dairy farm in rural Ireland, and this idyllic setting is a fitting backdrop for the quirky yet endearing White family. Eighteen-year-old Debbie, the protagonist and narrator, has lived on the farm all her life with her mother, Maeve, and uncle Billy. A self-described country bumpkin, Debbie is a bit lost, a bit sad and rather reluctant to be a freshman at Trinity College in the big city of Dublin.
Maeve, beatnik and beautiful, believes that her dreams are prophecies and therefore spends a lot of time sleeping, or when not asleep, writing about her dreams. Billy, disheveled but brilliant, takes care of the dairy farm, drinks a bit too much and prefers to live in a caravan behind their home. Debbie may not completely understand Maeve’s and Billy’s lifestyle choices, but in their chaos and flaws, she finds comfort, love and the freedom to be herself.
This novel is a true gift from Nealon, who has embraced wholeheartedly the writer’s credo to write what you know. She grew up in County Kildare, Ireland, on her family’s dairy farm before attending Trinity College, and she still lives on the farm where she was raised. Snowflake is about growing up detached from the rest of the world and then learning to assimilate, while also trying to figure out who you are and what your purpose is. Reading it is to lose yourself in reveries about the imperfections of life, the people we love and care for, self-doubt and the pursuit of joy.