Glaciers - Alexis M. Smith

Isabel lives in Portland, Oregon and works in a library, repairing damaged books. She longs to visit the destinations revealed in their pages. Her daydreams are peopled by memories from her Alaskan childhood, the glaciers that are being lost. Meanwhile, she's just the tiniest bit lonely and lovelorn. The object of her affection, a soldier recently returned from Afghanistan who also works in the basement of the library, seems equally quiet and so perhaps it's no surprise that their contact has been limited to only snatched moments. But today is the day that will all change. Isabel is determined to finally open up to him, to find the perfect vintage dress for this evening's party, and to invite him along. But, of course, life rarely happens as we plan it.




Glaciers is a beautifully written novella, written in charming vignette-style short chapters that compell the reader to plow through and learn the answers to the mysteries of Isabel. Isabel is a 20-something originally from Alaska but now lives in Portland, Oregon working as a book restorer in her local library. She is a lover of all things vintage, with a special interest in vintage clothes & linens and antique photographs.


She has a curious obsession with Amsterdam, dreaming of it nearly every night, though she's never been there.



All these things tell a story, but is it hers? It has always been more than an aesthetic choice, holding onto the past; it's a kind of mourning for the things that do not last.

We do not last, she thinks. In the end, only the stories survive.


She also pines away for her co-worker & Iraq war veteran, Thomas Spoke. Will today be the day she finds the courage to reveal her feelings for him?


The story largely takes place in the course of a single day of Isabel's life, from the time she wakes up for work on through to a party that night. In between, the reader takes a journey through Isabel's memories, the reminisces she experiences that seem to be triggered by the smallest things. Isabel's walk down memory lane had me going on my own little walk through some of my memories. They really can be triggered by the littlest, most seemingly mundane things! 


She butters a piece of toast, pours a cup of tea, and spoons in some honey. Her mother had a way of stirring honey into tea -- counterclockwise four times, then clockwise once -- that Isabel had practiced since she was a little girl. There was something in the angle of her mother's wrist and in the calm, distant gaze out the kitchen window that made her seem younger, prettier. Isabel realizes now that she had been seeing through her mother, to the woman she had been before she {Isabel} and Agnes {Isabel's sister} were born.


I really loved this little book, its painting-like prose and the journey it takes the reader on. As a booknerd, the one thing I wished there was more of was something about Isabel's actual book restoration work. It's hardly mentioned. Everything else about this one though, I absolutely loved. It's not heavy on action, but more a novel of introspection. Sometimes that works, sometimes not. The way this novel moves, it doesn't need heavy action. It's more like a nice, meandering, gently flowing river. Perfect for quiet, rainy days with a cup of tea!