One of the things, I have tried to do as a book reviewer for this blog is to read fiction outside of my comfort zone. I believe it’s important to stretch your reading experience and grow as a reader in the process. It’s too easy to only read in the genre you are comfortable with and never leave your favorite reading neighborhood.
I get this sensibility from my love of music. I can go from Pop to Old School R &B to Gospel to Jazz to Salsa and to Rock when I’m listening to music. But, in the literary world there’s an unwritten rule that if you only read Science-Fiction and Fantasy, then you must stay there as a reader. Or if you only read Christian Fiction you better not read Secular Fiction. I must admit I do not understand that unwritten rule.
My hope is that readers would take more chances on reading outside of their favorite genre. What’s the risk? You may not like it. I’m sure there are books in your preferred genre that you have not liked. I want to spend time reading things I comfortable with. Well, being comfortable can make you stale and doesn’t challenge you. What’s wrong with being uncomfortable and getting challenged once in awhile? I know there are plenty of reasons (excuses) for reading the same old thing. We only live once, right?
Sorry for getting on my soapbox, but after reading The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman brought those thoughts from the prior paragraphs to mind. I had not read anything by Hoffman before and I had heard about her reputation as being one of the best contemporary novelists working today.
I saw this novel in the local used bookstore here in San Antonio and picked up from the shelf. The cover intrigued me and I read the blurb and decided to make it my last read and review for 2013.
What if you were struck by lightning? How would that affect you emotionally? Would you try to find comfort or solace in others who had the same fate? Would you open yourself up to love? How would treat your family and friends?
All of those questions are answered in the story. The novel is narrated by unnamed woman who has been struck by lightning in her home state of New Jersey. She grew up with a distant mother and had a lukewarm relationship with her older brother. Because of those family relationships, the narrator was dubbed the nickname, The Ice Queen.
However, she decides to move to Florida after her ordeal in order to become closer to her brother, who has become a professor at a local university. Also, Florida is the lightning capital of America and her brother is doing research into lightning-strike victims. (I’m a native Floridian and this was another reason why I chose to read this book.)
The narrator meets another lightning-strike victim named Lazarus Jones. The two have a passionate romance but she begins to find out that Lazarus may not be whom he said he was originally. The narrator learns a lot about herself through this affair and begins a process of character growth because of it.
Also, there is an event with the narrator’s brother that begins to bring the two closer together. The brother remembers reading fairy tales to the narrator while growing up and that bond becomes an important discovery as he is dealing with this event in his own life.
The Ice Queen is a beautifully written, well-told story of a woman’s transformation after tragedy. Also, Hoffman shows the role of fairy tales and how the power of story could be used as a healing balm. I would recommend The Ice Queen and it was a good way to end my reading year of 2013.