Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Blog Tour Review: Salt the Snow by Carrie Callaghan

From the Back Cover:

American journalist Milly Bennett has covered murders in San Francisco, fires in Hawaii, and a civil war in China, but 1930s Moscow presents her greatest challenge yet. When her young Russian husband is suddenly arrested by the secret police, Milly tries to get him released. But his arrest reveals both painful secrets about her marriage and hard truths about the Soviet state she has been working to serve. Disillusioned and pulled toward the front lines of a captivating new conflict, Milly must find a way to do the right thing for her husband, her conscience, and her heart. Salt the Snow is a vivid and impeccably researched tale of a woman ahead of her time, searching for her true calling in life and love.

My Thoughts:

I was really looking forward to reading this book. A pioneering reporter in a dangerous locale, going up against a terrifying regime to fight for justice and save the people she loves--sign me up. But unfortunately I had some issues with this story that prevented me from loving it as I'd hoped I would.

For starters, it's got a pretty slow-moving plot. There were long stretches where I felt like not much happened, and I found myself skimming to get to the more interesting parts. I'm also not sure the dual timeline structure served the story well. There's not much distance between the timelines as they alternate between the time Milly met her husband and the aftermath of his arrest, and so by the time they converged, it all sort of seemed anti-climactic.

But the biggest issue, for me, was Milly herself. I don't usually read up on unknown-to-me historical figures before I read novels about them because I like to be surprised by what's coming and go in without any preconceptions, but in this case, maybe I should have. Because it took me a really long time to warm up to Milly Bennett. She's selfish. She's a bit of a lush. She sleeps with married men. She does some other things that some readers may find morally questionable. But hardest for me was that she's a die-hard supporter of communism (though it is called socialism at the time). I understand the novelty of it during the Great Depression and the allure the ideal held for Americans who went to the Soviet Union in search of a better life. But very few of them actually found a better life there. Even in the face of desperate poverty, the lack of food, heat, and basic necessities, forced communal living, forced labor, and a tyrannical government jailing people who say things they don't like, Milly still defends the system. I found her very hard to empathize with until more than halfway through the book. Eventually Milly does lift the veil of idealism, and more of her underlying vulnerability comes through, allowing the reader to better understand why she behaves the way she does and to feel sorry for her in the situation she finds herself in. I finally started to feel her highs and lows, her triumphs and tragedies as my own and became invested in the outcome of her story.

A lot of that may have to do with the fact that I found Part Three the most interesting and compelling of the novel. When Milly leaves Russia and heads to Spain to cover their civil war, she becomes the type of reporter she's always wanted to be, and she's reporting on something important. Or she's trying to anyway. Amazing how censored even the good guys' news was. This is where she really comes into her own and I was engrossed in the story. Unfortunately, this is also the shortest part of the book. I think I could have loved this book (and Milly) if her time during the Spanish Civil War had been the focus rather than her time in Moscow.

The author does a great job of depicting the era. The reader is transported to 1930s Moscow and war-torn Spain. Though at first Milly doesn't seem to be too concerned with the quite obvious direction the Soviet Union is going, the reader is. It's heartbreaking to watch people throw over one bad system of government for an even worse one, and yet it has been repeated over and over again throughout history. Though I wish we'd gotten as in-depth a portrayal of the causes of the Spanish Civil War and what drove Americans and other Europeans to join the fight, the author shines a spotlight on the little-known population of Americans and Europeans who chose to take part in the Bolshevik restructuring of Russia, examining the circumstances that drove them there and the idealism they strove for. This examination alone makes the novel a worthwhile read, though doubtless many readers will also be pleased to discover the dramatic life of a pioneering woman whose contributions to journalism have been all but forgotten.

My Rating:  3 Stars out of 5


Salt the Snow is on a blog tour!


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two signed copies of Salt the Snow by Carrie Callaghan! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on February 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Salt the Snow


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