Friday, July 15, 2005

Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman’s Ice Queen may be the most beautiful book I’ve ever read. With this book, words are worth a thousand pictures. Hoffman doesn’t so much tell a story as she paints images of moments and feelings and creates an intensity that overwhelms the reader.

In the simplest of descriptions, this is the story of a woman made of ice who falls desperately in love with a man made of fire. And the result of that love or more accurately, that obsession is steam, lots and lots of steam.

But this story is about so much more than the melting of the Ice Queen. It’s about family and it’s about memories. This book is about the way we shape the world around us, the world that doesn’t necessarily exist, but rather the world that we perceive, and the way that perception becomes our reality. The events of the story unfold so gradually and so startlingly. You realize, as does the main character how different the world is from what you once thought it was. On the surface, this is about a woman who survives the real world by turning it into a fairy tale, because the woman in the background, the woman who accidentally created this story, couldn’t go on anymore. I found the passage about the ice on the road and being lucky for the first time to be especially moving. I'm purposely being vague because I don't want to give too much away.

If I wrote novels, I would want to write like Hoffman writes. She has the ability to string together words that make me feel things that I didn’t think I was capable of feeling.

Perhaps the effect this book had on me had more to do with the place in which I happen to be at this point in my life – that point being confused and broken-hearted, disappointed, old and scared and tired, very, very tired, in a way that sleep can never cure – but whatever it was, reading this felt like opening up my soul. It felt like my chest was suddenly cracked open and the pain that had been building up for so long just drifted away. Then I knew that I would be okay, if only for a moment, it was a moment more than I’d had before. That sounds hokey and absurd, but I can’t think of a better way to describe the way this book made me feel.

There is one line in the book especially that made me stop reading, just so I could absorb the words, capture the moment and hold it. “Happily ever after doesn’t mean forever.” So simple and yet, reading it like that made everything better. It made me realize that just because something ended doesn’t mean that it never happened. Nothing takes away your memories, your moments. Just because you lose someone doesn’t mean that you’ve lost what you once had with that someone.

So my recommendation: Read this. I can’t imagine anyone not liking it.
Finished reading this on July 15, 2005

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