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Snowdrift ~ Reviewed by Annie Vigna

Snowdrift by Lisa McGonigleSnowdrift by Lisa McGonigle
Oolichan Books, 2011
285 pp. $18.95

Reviewed by Annie Vigna

From “Retrospective: How I Ended Up in Canada in the First Place” to “Back At It” Lisa McGonigle, diminutive Irish scholar from North County Dublin, tells a story of her love of snow sports, and the Kootenays, and the life of a snow-bum during the four years she spent pursuing this love, meanwhile postponing PhD studies to investigate scandals in the Catholic Church and how they’re reflected in contemporary Irish culture.

She tells her story through e-mails sent to friends in Ireland and the United Kingdom, a model that allowed her to set aside classic essay writing and give free rein to her wit, her emotions, and necessary exposition, while treating the recipients to a veritable travelogue.

How to get there, places to see, people to meet, accommodations, food, clothing, what one expects to pay for things, ski-bum jargon, snow conditions, weather conditions, city-living versus outdoor small-town living are all covered in these 285 pages.

McGonigle laces up runners during the summer months and trains and races half-marathons in preparation for the Dublin marathon. Even in Calgary she runs. “As to what Calgary is like? Well, if I met someone else on a year’s working holiday visa living here I’d look at them askance—what on earth are you doing? Get out there, see the wilderness! …. They play both kinds of music here – country AND western” (p195). Smart guest/traveller that she is, though, McGonigle provides detailed information about the excellent running trails and the annual Calgary Stampede.

Snowdrift caught me by surprise. This is the book one of my sons would read; in fact, I asked Lisa to autograph my copy to my son Peter: “For Peter Vigna – the original Viggie Shredder”. Peter would love this book; he would know what she was on about because he lived the adventure of snowboarding when he was about Lisa’s age.

So, after flipping the pages of Snowdrift too many times, wondering how I would ever get through it, once I began to read, I was hooked. I became attached to her, so to speak, through her words. Without ever strapping my boots onto a snowboard, I rushed with her down steep slopes in the Kootenays, or in New Zealand, while wincing in pain at her injuries, and always keeping the faith and getting right back up to try again.

She says, “What I love most about snowboarding, I discovered, is the freshness and joy it brings, the reminders that wow, life can be a lot of fun” (p47).

And fun McGonigle had, from 2005 to 2010, finally returning to her studies, but not before publication of this important and interesting book.

Annie Vigna is a former bookstore owner. She lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Read more about Snowdrift by Lisa McGonigle

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Posted by Pearl on Jun 14 2011. Filed under Book Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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