“Ways to Hide in Winter,” by Sarah St. Vincent, is a slow-burn of a story that draws you deeper in the more you read. Descriptions of the setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Pennsylvania are breathtaking—I felt like I could see my breath in front of me on a cold day while reading this book. The cold and isolation of the setting add to the somewhat ominous story.
This is a difficult book to describe. It's almost a thriller, yet more of a character study in its exploration of culpability and our responsibilities to one another. We meet Kathleen, the sole employee of a small store/restaurant located in a national park. She is hiding out, even though she lives in her hometown and seems to know everyone except the man who turns up from Uzbekistan.
Kathleen appears to be suffering from something in her past. She has mysterious injuries. Midway through the book details point to domestic abuse and a terrible car accident. There are questions raised but not answered by the author. Kathleen develops a friendship with the stranger from Uzbekistan despite her apprehensions, and over time comes to learn his secrets while also finally confronting truths about her own past.
This story is striking, troubling, deep, and bleak with just a faint trace of light. At times, nearing the end, I felt like I had “missed something.” The author seemed to be trying to tie up a lot of unanswered questions and sometimes that worked but other times it felt like new storylines were being developed too late in the book.
Overall, I enjoyed “Ways to Hide in Winter” and where my imagination took me while reading. I was intrigued enough to do Google research on the background of the character from Uzbekistan.