cover image The Ice House

The Ice House

Laura Lee Smith. Grove, $25 (448p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2708-2

A spirited cast makes up the foundation of Smith’s delicately spun story of family, loyalty, and the difficult choices people must make when forgiving someone. Johnny and Pauline MacKinnon spend their days trying to keep their Florida ice factory afloat as they skirt around the topic of Corran, Johnny’s estranged son from a previous marriage. Corran is believed to have stolen his stepmother’s ring to buy heroin, but is now trying to stay sober and raise his infant daughter in Scotland. Johnny is skeptical of the latest turn in Corran’s behavior, but, after he is diagnosed with a potentially malignant brain tumor, he has to decide how to make use of the weeks leading up to his surgery. Johnny sets off for Scotland to find Corran, leaving Pauline behind to deal with the ice factory’s legal and financial troubles. In a tiny cottage perched near a chilly loch, Corran battles his inner demons, unwilling to acknowledge his father’s belated reconciliation attempts until fresh tragedy forces them together. Peppering the story with affecting interludes that trace the evolution of Johnny and Corran’s relationship, Smith (Heart of Palm) majestically captures the urgency of reconnecting with a loved one when time seems to be quickly slipping away. (Dec.)