Ask a Bookseller: A mother-daughter story of travel and art

In the week that included International Women's Day, it felt right to focus on a book that centers on a mother-daughter relationship. The recommendation comes from Shannon Daniels of Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Mich., who says Jessica Au's novel "Cold Enough for Snow" was her top staff pick this year.

A novel cover art
"Cold Enough For Snow" by Jessica Au
Courtesy photo

The novel is partly a travel story, as we follow a mother and daughter who decide to visit Japan as a way of strengthening their relationship. The daughter is grown; her mother, she realizes, has become older than she remembered. Their story, Daniels said, forms the frame for what is essentially a novel of ideas about art, beauty, and relationships.

One of the big questions the book asks, Daniels said, is "how it might be possible to get the great feeling that really good art gives us — outside of an artistic experience. Like, can it be found in a relationship or a place, or some other kind of transcendent experience?"

Au's novel was selected from a pool of 1,500 entries worldwide as the inaugural winner of New Direction's Novel Prize in 2020, and the novel was published in 2022.

Daniels said reading the novel gave her the same kind of feeling that she gets from looking at her favorite works of art, both painted and written.

"It's nice to read something that recalls that strangely rare feeling of transcendence."

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