Book Spotlight: An Echo Through The Snow by: Andrea Thalasinos

Publisher: Forge Books

Publish Date: August 21, 2012

Order From:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: In today's climate of hopelessness and despair, Madison College professor Andrea Thalasinos’s AN ECHO THROUGH THE SNOW is a story of relationships between unlikely people that compel them to persevere with the belief that a better world is possible. Far eastern Siberia and the Red Cliff Indian Reservation on Lake Superior in Wisconsin become center stage when the forces of personal and cultural destruction entice the characters into surrender and desperation.

In 1919 when young Jeaantaa's betrothed dies in a hunt on the Bering Sea, she is pressured into an unwanted marriage to Tariem, his older brother. Ten years later as Stalin's Red Army advances to their village on the Bering seacoast, Jeaantaa is forced to make a decision about their dogs, called guardians. Her actions put her at odds with both her husband and the ancient ways of the Chukchi. Thwarting their family's plan to escape into reindeer country, she vanishes after a meeting with Robert Ramsay, a young man from Nome, Alaska. Her disappearance leaves Tariem haunted for a lifetime as to her fate and the whereabouts of dozens of their young dogs.

In 1992, eighteen-year-old Rosalie McKenzie is at odds with the world. Stuck in a destructive marriage along with a string of dead-end jobs, she breaks ranks to save Smokey, an abused husky, at great consequence to her own well-being. As Rosalie gains a passion for this elegant animal, she unwittingly ventures along a path of self-discovery. Hired as a dog handler by Jan and Dave, who own a local sled dog racing kennel, she finds herself center stage in the world of competitive dog sledding.

At a competition she meets Charlie Gokee, a veterinarian and retired Alaskan dog musher who sees in Rosalie all the spirit, strength and potential she fails to recognize in herself. Rosalie shines as she comes into her own. And it's through a series of mysterious events or remembrances that Rosalie embodies the spirit of Jeaantaa as a contemporary Keeper of the Guardians. Through Charlie, she meets legendary musher Robert Ramsay who opens doors to the many puzzling dreams and
intuitions that served as the initial impetus for saving Smokey.

Readers of AN ECHO THROUGH THE SNOW are treated to vivid locations and highly charged emotional themes that reveal little known historical and political events spanning sixty years. As the narratives weave together they meet towards the end in a dramatic present time conclusion where an ancient breed of canines, huskies that have thrived in the homes and hearts of northern peoples, help to guide the way home. 

Short Excerpt: Sometimes a story has to be told if for no other reason than to unburden the heart. —Anonymous

OCTOBER 1929—UELEN, CHUKOTKA, NORTHEASTERN SIBERIA He strained to catch a glimpse of them through the morning mist. Tariem wiped his runny nose on his sleeve. A truck engine rumbled from the outskirts of the village; the soldiers must have discovered that he’d escaped. Earlier he pried off a few loose boards from the temporary stockade and slipped out.

It was snowing lightly, the clouds low hanging and billowy. Snowflakes gathered in lacy patterns along the folds of his sealskin sleeves, like the mountain ridges where he’d soon be headed. It might have been a peaceful morning if not for the smoke from burning houses, the Red Army’s truck or that his wife was gone. Today all remaining Chukchi along the Bering seacoast were to be evicted. Evacuation orders had been tacked up in Russian on family yarangas for weeks, though no one could read.

Tariem fumbled as he attached the gangline to the remaining sled. The engine sounds stabbed his stomach like spoiled whale meat.

The remaining team of dogs watched in silence as he readied the loaded sled. It was his wife Jeaantaa’s team. The dogs looked wary, especially Kinin. The lead dog’s blue stare pierced the mist. From a puppy he’d been Jeaantaa’s leader, and leaders often ran for no one else. Tariem lashed the frozen salmon tighter onto the heavy sled. The gut line dug deeply into his palm as he leveraged his weight, securing it to the sled’s driftwood stanchion. He prayed it wouldn’t snap. Losing food on the tundra was death.

He looked to Kinin. The Guardian had bear-thick fur, as blue-black as the Siberian night. Above each crystalline eye a white fur circle grew. These markings proffered guidance from the Old Ones, whose spirits swirled in colorful trails across the sky. Tariem hoped for Kinin to get him out of the village, to the Cave of Many Points, and from there find the twelve-hundred-mile trail to their reindeer-breeding cousins.

The dogs’ whiskers were frosted into snow beards. Though they ordinarily would be yelping with excitement as a sled was being readied, the events of the past few days made them hushed and suspicious. Gaps in the yard stood like missing teeth—only twenty dogs left where there had been eighty.

“Kinin,” he called. The dog lowered his head and didn’t move. Tariem slowly approached, trying to be calm, though the army truck was getting louder. Harness in one hand and a piece of seal meat as an offering to Kinin in the other. Just like Jeaantaa questioned his judgment, Kinin also had doubts.
“They’re coming, Kinin,” he explained. Palms up, he laid the meat down. Dogs couldn’t be forced to run. They’d just lie down. You could beat them, cut off their tails in anger; they still wouldn’t get up.

Tariem glanced at the family yaranga out of habit. “Ku, ku”—he’d not had time to burn their birch and walrus-skin house to free the House Spirit. Now the Spirit would follow, even harm them.

Copyright © 2012 by Andrea Thalasinos

Author Bio: Andrea grew up in the New York area as the daughter of a Greek American family. Her early love of animals was confined mostly to luring home stray dogs by surreptitiously feeding them and then trying to keep them hidden from her parents. Kostantino and Mary were not keen on dogs!

After taking a creative writing course in high school her life was changed. Working in the school library, she'd cut classes and sneak out with an armful of books, hitchhiking down to Jones Beach even in winter to read and write.

Through a quirk of fate she later moved to the northern Great Lakes and began attending the University of Wisconsin Madison where she completed a PH.D. With academic training in sociology, she compares the excavation of history, people and events to, "discovering diamonds in a place one would never expect, embedded into stories that are yet to be told. It's exhilarating as information and
story weave together to form new ways of seeing previously unexamined or unknown things."

She remembers telling a close friend after graduation, "Whew, glad that's over, now I can write fiction and get a dog!"

Currently, Andrea lives in Madison, Wisconsin where she is anxiously awaiting the publication of her first novel An Echo Through the Snow, scheduled for release in spring 2012 by Forge Books. Andrea is working on her second novel.

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