"Snow Rising," by Matt Baldwin, Shadow Mountain Publishing, 309 pages, $24.99
Drawn as a modern-day parable, "Snow Rising" examines life's toughest questions through the story of middle-aged executive, Jason Snow.
"The book was the result of being interested in two different ideas, or at least I thought they were different in the beginning," author Matt Baldwin in a recent interview with Mormon Times. "It's really my response to the counterfeit leadership characteristics that seem so sought-after and duplicated in our day, characteristics which, it turns out, produce the greed and scandals. I'm not talking about just corporate leadership characteristics. If something is true, it works every time, in every circumstance. So moral authority was part of the inspiration.
"The book and its ideas also became my statement against moral relativism and situational ethics. The second piece of inspiration came by observation and consideration, and is embedded in our notion of joy or happiness. What characteristics are foundational to long-lasting relationships? Do we really have any direct control over these characteristics, or are they, instead, consequences of something much more fundamental? These are difficult questions, and they require soul-searching, honest answers," Baldwin said.
At the opening of the book, Snow has reached a point in his professional and personal life where he realizes he is disconnected from everything he thought he had achieved. Having spent his career and life on autopilot, Snow has a stark realization of the gaping dichotomy between the outer trappings of his success verses his inner self-worth. He has reached a point of painful self-awareness. The beliefs he valued have failed him. Snow has everything, according to pervading cultural mantras, but yet starts to feel he has nothing. Through the story, readers meet Snow as he starts to recognize and reflect on his mistakes and choices, as he tries to reconcile his life.
"Jason Snow is at a point in his life where he's really wondering if he can rise from this hole he's dug. There is a sincere concern, a distressed realization, that this is what his life has come to," Baldwin said. "You get wrapped up in what you are taught and believe is important. Second, when we get off track, when we start believing or behaving in a way that is inconsistent with whom we know we are, we violate our own sense of self-worth. We don't like that feeling. So, we go outside of ourselves to find relief. We turn to possessions, or appearance, or social acceptance, or power, or self-medication. All of these are counterfeit answers that come from the outside in, when the real problem can only be solved from the inside out."
The story follows Snow and his family as they embark on a family vacation near Oregon's Mount Hood, which Snow plans to climb and seek clarity. Snow's relationships are tenuous and fragile with his wife, Anna, and their children, Brian and Jesse. Along the journey, Snow meets a cast of characters who all have something to teach him and each other as they prepare to ascend the mountain. Climbing guide, Clara, a chemist turned mountain climbing guru, leads Snow through an exploration of the meaning of life as individuals and as members of the human family. Through the mountain climbing experience, Baldwin creates a forum for Clara to share with Jason four axioms that will help change not only him but also the world. Through the characters, readers are taught why the four axioms of compassion, humility, gratitude and conscience, when applied, can bring lasting peace to individuals and societies.
"Climbing a mountain was a vehicle that produced the stress, confinement, and relationships necessary for Jason and Clara to have this experience together. It doesn't matter how uncomfortable the situation becomes, when you're at ten thousand feet on the side of an ancient volcano and roped to four other climbers, there's nowhere to go, no escaping, no running. There were other vehicles I considered, but personally, I've always loved the high mountains. I felt like I could tell the story and, through Clara, relate some of the pure exhilaration and emotion I feel at high elevation," Baldwin said.
With sweeping and vivid detail, Baldwin creates a deep and authentic world to create a forum for his personal and societal reflections. Through the use of parable, Baldwin allows his characters to draw out and teach provoking life lessons through their personalities and plot, instead of a traditional nonfiction book. "Snow Rising" is a profound, philosophical work, yet remains accessible to a variety of audiences who may be wondering if there is much good left in the world.
With themes of redemption, change, teamwork, family and faith, "Snow Rising" causes readers to reexamine and challenge deeply rooted beliefs.
"That's the point of the parable. Whoever they are, whatever problem they are suffering through that they believe might be singular to them, they'll find reflected in the story. I don't want Snow Rising to be an interesting story. I want Snow Rising to be their story," Baldwin said. "I'd like to think that in the 309 pages, something unexpected will hit them, and they'll realize I'm writing about them, that Jason's problem is exactly their problem, and I'd like them to know they are not alone. There are answers to difficult problems, their problems. We're all in this together. Snow Rising is meant to be an emotional, physical, and spiritual journey, an awakening of sorts."
"Snow Rising," published by Shadow Mountain Publishing, is available at all major booksellers. For more information, visit www.snowrising.com.