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The Ice House


The Ice House

Johnny MacKinnon is leading a good life, but suddenly changes start to occur. First, there is an accident in the ice factory (where he is the COO), and then comes the OSHA investigation, which may result in a fine so big that he and his wife will be forced to shut down the factory. To make matters worse, Johnny collapses on the factory floor, and after an MRI is told that he may have a brain tumor. Furthermore, he and his son have not spoken to each other in months.

Johnny is not happy with how everything has unfolded, but there is not much he can do about it. So instead of panicking, he decides to take a trip and visit his son and granddaughter, leaving his wife to take care of the lawyers and the investigation.

"Smith has written a heartwarming story about ordinary people, living ordinary lives and managing to deal with often very tough decisions."

THE ICE HOUSE is a much more complex novel than this short summary may suggest. It is both plot- and character-driven, and in some parts is absolutely amazing. The story follows not just Johnny on his journey from hot Florida to cold Scotland, but also the lives of other characters connected either to the ice factory or to Johnny, all of whom are well written and multi-layered. In addition to Johnny’s second wife, Pauline, and son Corran, we are introduced to his first wife, Sharon, and her second husband; Roy, Clair and Rosa from the factory; and Chemal (my favorite character), Johnny and Pauline’s neighbor. Chemal is a misunderstood 17-year-old, a high-school dropout who is nonetheless bright and clever and lights up Johnny’s life.

It must be noted, though, that the pace of the story is uneven. The first half is slow and often burdened with lots of descriptions, some of which are unnecessary, while the second half is much faster and more enjoyable to read. I also found the resolution of the OSHA investigation to be a bit too neat.

Still, THE ICE HOUSE is a deep novel that explores, among other subjects, the complicated relationship between Pauline and her father, who was a racist in his youth and is now dying of Alzheimer’s. Smith has written a heartwarming story about ordinary people, living ordinary lives and managing to deal with often very tough decisions. I already am looking forward to the author’s next book.

Reviewed by Dunja Bonacci Skenderović on January 5, 2018

The Ice House
by Laura Lee Smith

  • Publication Date: December 5, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802127088
  • ISBN-13: 9780802127082