Sunday, February 27, 2011

Alice Hoffman's Ice Queen

Ohhhhh  - I finished this novel this morning on my walk and, I tell you, The Ice Queen could melt the most frigid hearts. What a deeply insightful novel of guilt, miscommunication, realization and forgiveness. The audio version is perfectly read by Nancy Travis with just the right combination of smart ass Jersey girl attitude and vulnerable, orphaned, single librarian angst.

Our narrator, though never called by name, opens herself up to the reader in a way that she is incapable of doing with the few people in her life. A recluse, a reference librarian whose primary interest is death, she blames herself for her mother's premature demise in an automobile accident on an icy road and has managed to close off her senses as well as her heart to outside interference.

When her older  brother Ned invites her to move to Florida where he and his wife are professors at one of the state universities, she goes simply because she has nothing tying her to New Jersey, certainly not the occasional trysts in a car with Jack the local police chief.

But, remarkably, once in that fetid swamp that we Floridians love to hate, she begins to smell and feel the density of the place. During a humid evening thunder storm, staring out the window at the tumultuous southern sky, she is struck by lightning and nothing will ever be the same. Survivors of lightning strikes are, you see, very rare, and it just so happens that a study is in progress at Ned's university.

Ironically it is cold, clinical Ned, the scientist with whom our ice queen has little in common, who will become the catalyst for her salvation, just as she will one day be his. It is only when our heroine begins to interact with the others in the workshops, rushing into a literally steam inducing, obsessive affair with another loner/survivor, that the ice begins to melt.

This is such a heartfelt, satisfying novel, I can't recommend it enough. It's especially fun of course, for us librarians. Ms. Hoffman, who I don't believe was one, sure knows all the inside scoop on privacy issues in libraries, our ability to access information for personal gain, (say it isn't so!) and our inquisitive natures.

The ice queen is a great character; a woman you want to slap one minute and hug a second later, a stubborn, selfish person one day and a generous, passionate lover the next. She embodies the dichotomy in all of us who have lived through deep, gut wrenching loss and come out the other side, perhaps not whole, but certainly wiser and working toward completeness. I love this book and can't wait to meet the woman who had the imagination to create it.
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1 comment:

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