On Shelagh Power-Chopra’s “The Snowbank
by Susan Gibb

It was a difficult process to select a particular story out of my tons of faves. Many of my favorite stories have already been removed from the files, happily being tweaked for publishing somewhere, I’m sure. From the rest, I scanned quickly and selected about ten to focus in on, then ground it down to one of my favorite fields of magical realism. Then I went through those four until I picked one that was easy for me to identify exactly why, on a second reading, I liked it.

The first is that unexplainable “wow” feeling in your gut tinged with the bile of resentment that it wasn’t you that wrote it. The rest is a bit more methodical. The story I picked is “The Snowbank” by Shelagh Power-Chopra and the very concept–taken from a life event Shelagh read about evidently–is exquisite: a man finds himself stuck in a snowbank. Not only is this immediately interesting, it appeals to an inner fear bred into every snow-bound child by its mother. Instant empathy and tension. Shelagh sets the stage easily with a good intention gone bad–the quick trip to the store for a holiday necessity.

Shelagh then adds humor and conflict into the situation by way of a squirrel who was also scooped up by the plow and is the only thing the character can see inches away from his face. Here again, Shelagh depends upon the reader’s knowledge of an angry squirrel and the danger it threatens. I love magical realism, and the absurdity of this scenario is wonderfully handled by the author. Pinned in place deep within the snowbank, with no sure chance of being saved, the character’s thoughts travel through his life situations, which seem just as frustrating as the squirrel who was, with, “One eye wide open and less then a few inches away, staring straight at him.” He decides the squirrel is dead, but isn’t quite sure, and in either case, it’s metaphorical existence in both his current state and the possibility of his death is conflict enough.

The story has all the elements of strong character, tension, arc, reflection, drama, and resolution along with its humor, and when I found myself shaking my head in wonder with a big smile on my face, I knew it was a fave.

Fictionaut Faves, a series in which Fictionaut members recommend stories on the site, is edited by Marcelle Heath, a fiction writer, freelance editor, and assistant editor for Luna Park. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

  1. finnegan flawnt

    that is one beautifully, knowledgeable and well written review, susan, thank you. it also makes me want to look at this story!

Leave a Comment