The unfolding of The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico was much like watching a painter softly cover a canvas with colors, creating a scene you couldn’t have imagined.
This short story follows Philip Rhayader, a hunchback and cripple, who lives in an abandoned lighthouse with marshland around it. He leads a solitary life as a painter and friend to all creatures – specifically birds.
Frith is a girl who comes to Rhayader for help after finding a wounded snow goose. An almost friendship occurs between the two. It’s much more of a hesitant indulgence of curiosity on the girls part.
The years passing revolve around the snow goose and whether it leaves the lighthouse in spring or not. The years lead up to the climax of the events of Dunkirk, where Rhayader takes his boat and sets out to attempt rescuing soldiers. Frith, now a woman, realizes that her timid relationship with Rhayader had actually formed a bond between the two.
But what is this story really about? It’s about loneliness, compassion, and the goodness of some men against the backdrop of scorn. It’s about a life wishing for purpose, but unable to be full in existing without people, yet unable to be with people. It’s about forgotten heroes and missed friendships. It’s about the empty space in our knowledge surrounding historical events.
Rhayader is just a man who wants to be seen by who he is, not what he looks like. Dunkirk gives him this opportunity.
The snow goose is a symbol of human nature and what truly bonds us one to another.
This story can be about different things, but it can also be just that: a story. I love how the simplicity of this story opens it to possibilities.
December Book Club Pick (Coming Dec. 1)