In the 1980s, Jim heads off to Windsor College. His plan is to make a new life for himself. That life includes joining a fraternity, dating girls, and repressing any sexual feelings towards men. By all outward accounts, he is succeeding with the college life he wants for himself.
Glenn relocates to Windsor as the kept man of his wealthy older lover. Bored with small town life, Glenn enrolls at Windsor College and meets Jim in a Romantic Literature class.
When Jim asks Glenn for assistance with a class assignment, sparks ignite, and Jim can no longer deny his longing. A few days spent together secluded in a snowy wonderland reading poetry and exploring each other has the men falling in love. But real life is waiting for them and it just may be too hard to sustain their romantic passion each and every day.
During the course of the story, Jim is told that his writing is both haunting and evocative and that would be the description for this short story as well. The story reads in a somewhat narrative manner and, like the poetry the men study, would lend itself to being read aloud. There is economy of space for the length of the story as the words are concise, visual, and thought provoking.
Mostly told from Jim’s POV, we do get caught up quickly on the background of each man. Glenn exposes Jim to so many things, from his love of poetry, to his feelings of being with a man, and the dialogue and overall feel of their initial time together reads like a poem itself. The men fall in love quickly within their own bubble. That kind of romantic love where life changes during a storm and all things seem possible and new like a fresh blanket of snow. The men make drastic life changes in a few days and then have to deal when real life crashes down on them. The writing is captivating and we visually see the weather, the snow, the cigarette smoke, and the mansion, which are all intertwined with Jim’s acceptance of being with a man. It’s all of the small pieces that make up a life in a moving visual of life pictures flashing before your eyes.
If I had not read the published blurb, I would not have known that the story was set in the 1980s. With the exception of the word “hi-fi” and a lot of cigarette smoking, there is not much to indicate the feel of that time. There is one small inconsistency in the story, but it did not detract overall. I would have really liked to be in Glenn’s head a bit more as it would have enhanced the story in many ways. It would have been really interesting to have gotten his take on all that transpires, but, like a mysterious poet, it would tend to demystify the romantic notion. The ending had me wanting just a bit more on Jim as well, because like life itself the ending moves fast.
The story packs a lot into its pages and it hits hard like romantic poetry, where the tragedy embodies the full declaration of love. With the idea that the more tragic the story, ultimately, the more romantic it claims to be, Thunder Snow follows suit. This is a short story that hits the mark on many levels and will stay with you long after the last word.