The Ice Houseby Laura Lee Smith
From a writer of wry humor and warmth, The Ice House is the picaresque, heartrending tale of a man on the verge of losing his livelihood and his relationship with his only son.
Laura Lee Smith is a writer who’s been praised for her “intelligence, heart, [and] wit” (Richard Russo). Her new novel The Ice House follows the beleaguered MacKinnons as they weather the possible closing of the family business, a serious medical diagnosis, and the slings and arrows of familial discord.
Johnny MacKinnon might be on the verge of losing it all. The ice factory he married into, which he’s run for decades, is facing devastating OSHA fines following a mysterious accident and may have to close. The only hope for Johnny’s livelihood is that someone in the community saw something, but no one seems to be coming forward. He hasn’t spoken to his son Corran back in Scotland since Corran’s heroin addiction finally drove Johnny to the breaking point. And now, after a collapse on the factory floor, it appears Johnny may have a brain tumor. Johnny’s been ordered to take it easy, but in some ways, he thinks, what’s left to lose? This may be his last chance to bridge the gap with Corran—and to have any sort of relationship with the baby granddaughter he’s never met.
Witty and heartbreaking by turns, The Ice House is a vibrant portrait of multifaceted, exquisitely human characters that readers will not soon forget. It firmly establishes Laura Lee Smith as a gifted voice in American fiction.
“Peppering the story with affecting interludes that trace the evolution of Johnny and Corran’s relationship, Smith , [author of] Heart of Palm, majestically captures the urgency of reconnecting with a loved one when time seems to be quickly slipping away.”—Publishers Weekly
“While this is a beautiful character-driven novel, the settings are also vividly realized, from the run-down neighborhood of Jacksonville that houses the factory to the remote town in the Scottish Highlands that Curran has retreated to in an attempt to ward off his cravings for heroin.”—Indie Picks Magazine
“Smith weaves their stories expertly, moving from Jacksonville to Scotland and back, from another disaster to a laugh-out-loud moment. Her tenderness toward her characters and subtle understanding of class differences in American society are reminiscent of such novelists as Richard Russo and Jennifer Egan, but this heartbreaking, heartwarming novel is an original.”—Tampa Bay Times
“Laura Lee Smith has given us a thought-provoking multinational tale… The Ice House will challenge your crime solving skills and teach you lots about the Scottish Highlands. The exciting ending has a chilly twist you won’t expect.” —The St. Augustine Record
“The kind of novel that makes you sad when it’s over because you know you won’t be able to be in that world any longer.”—Advance Reading Copy
“Smith is a devil with the details and her complicated and fascinating portrayal of this family and our city will have you flipping the pages and cheering for more.”—Jacksonville.com
“The characters in this novel are genuine; they feel like a real family. All of the characters are believable and have their own distinctive voice. The tale is told from the perspective of each of the characters, but readers will definitely have a favorite. I enjoyed this book to the very end. I also learned a lot about how an ice factory operates. Although the plot is intriguing, it is the humanity of the characters that keeps you reading.”—eMissourian.com
“The Ice House is a tour de force that sweeps readers into a symphony of powerfully drawn characters, all of whom have been wounded in ways that both cripple and embolden them. This novel is an intercontinental family saga and an exploration of blue-collar life, but at its core it’s a very good novel that asks us to consider the lengths we’ll go to in order to save the things that matter most: a company, a loved one, ourselves.”—Wiley Cash, author of The Last Ballad and A Land More Kind Than Home
“The Ice House offers all the pleasures of the novel—robust characters we worry about and root for, a story that deepens and intrigues, language that charms and surprises, and even some rare and welcome humor. It does all this in a setting unusual to a novel—the world of work, in this case, a family ice making business in Florida. How does Laura Lee Smith keep that small, cold world so large and ardent hearted? The Ice House is a marvel of a novel.”—Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi and author of Heating & Cooling
The island of Iona was a chaos of greens and blues. The waters shone so clear and silver it hurt Johnny’s eyes to look, and the machair grasslands spread along the coastline and up the hills. They walked the beach at Martyr’s Bay and ate bread and cheese, and an apple Johnny had brought in his jacket pocket.
Then Johnny took Corran and they hiked their way up across a rough, scraping hill toward a high plateau from which they could see almost the entire island of Iona and great rocky Mull to the east. Johnny pointed out across the sea.
“Florida,” he said to Corran. “America. It’s right over there.”
“I can’t see it,” Corran said.
“It’s a bit of a ways,” Johnny admitted. “But it’s there. It’s where I’ll be for a bit, aye? And I’ll come to see you soon. And you’ll come over there, too.”
Corran looked at him somberly. “I don’t want you to go,” he said.
“Och, now,” Johnny said. He felt his throat closing. He put his hand on Corran’s head.
“Will you come back?” Corran said.
“I will,” Johnny said.
Corran’s face was flushed pink and damp with sweat, though the winds atop the hill were bitter cold. He’d worked so hard to get to the top, that little bairn, so stubborn, his little legs so sturdy. He wouldn’t let Johnny carry him, and Johnny had never seen anything as beautiful as that sovereign little boy. Nobody else had a boy like that.
Longlisted for SIBA’s Southern Literature Prize