Tin House Books, $12.95, 174 pages
Alexis Smith’s slender debut novel follows her heroine, Isabel, through a day in her life. Isabel is a twenty-something Portlander who repairs books for the library, collects postcards, and yearns after another employee who fixes her computer. She is passionate about vintage clothing and repurposing things other people have discarded, both of which make Portland the perfect setting for her.
Although the story unfolds in a single day, Smith does a beautiful job harvesting Isabel’s past and present by writing almost solely from an internal perspective. The reader is given a deep glimpse into Isabel’s thoughts, feelings, and dreams. We see where her love of all things vintage starts and feel her nostalgia for her childhood in Alaska. Her pervasive feeling of loss is captured by Smith’s lean yet evocative writing. The only downside to this is Smith’s frequent use of sentence fragments. This has the potential to confuse the reader, but it often brings home Isabel’s disjointed sense of sadness. At 165 pages, Glaciers can easily be read in one sitting, but the wistful pensive nature of Isabel will stay much longer.