"The Year of Ice "
(Reviewed by Kam Aures NOV 12, 2003)
Set in 1978 in Minnesota, The Year of Ice is a novel about a young man trying to find himself. From the outside, eighteen-year-old Kevin Doyle appears to be a typical high-school teenager, just one of the guys, playing snow football and always on the lookout for the next party. He even has a popular, pretty girlfriend named Allison. However, things are not always as they might appear. Kevin is gay, a secret he has hidden from everyone. He has a crush on fellow schoolmate Jon Thompson. "Jon's a fox. He's got these really big eyelashes and hair that's the same color as chocolate."
Kevin tries to get as close as he can to Jon without making it appear that he is into guys. For instance, in a game of snow football Kevin and Jon are on opposing teams. Jon has snagged the ball from Kevin's team and is running down the field. Kevin plows into him and knocks him down but just lies there on top of him, as this is the only time that he can get away with it without people thinking that something is up.
At home at night, Kevin fantasizes that Jon feels the same way about him. "I pile up the pillows and hold them in my arms. Here, Jon Thompson's in love with me, his head on my shoulder and my hand stroking his cool chocolate hair. I kiss the fabric of the pillowcase and squeeze Jon tighter. We talk about the game. He tells me how much he loved being tackled by me. If only people knew, he says and laughs. I laugh with him and then I kiss him again, but harder this time. He pulls away and holds my head in his hands. He looks at me like he's gonna cry and he says, I love you, Kevin. I'll love you forever. Promise me you'll never leave me." However, these fantasies are just that, fantasies. In real life Jon is completely into girls and pretty much makes that fact known with every word that he speaks.
Kevin's struggle to hide his sexual orientation is not the only problem in his life. His mother died two years earlier when her car slid off of the road and plunged into the river. Up until now Kevin had thought that her death was an accident. As Kevin's relationship with his father becomes distant, Kevin learns from his Aunt Nora that his mother's death may have been a suicide. Aunt Nora tells him that his father was having an affair with another woman at the time and was planning on leaving with this woman and abandoning his family. "Him and that Gunderson woman were planning to pack up and run off together, make a new start of it somewhere warm. You and your mother were coming to stay with me." After Kevin realizes the circumstances surrounding his mother's death he becomes more detached from his father and the arguments among the family escalate.
Brian Malloy's debut novel is incredible and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future. I could not put this book down and I read it from cover to cover in one sitting. Malloy has written an extremely engaging and detailed novel where the reader always wants to know what is going to happen next. Underneath all of the seriousness of the situations that Kevin faces, the author has interjected just the right amount of humor and sarcasm to keep the reader entertained. All of the characters are very well developed and in most cases are unforgettable. Malloy writes, "I wrote The Year of Ice to examine what happens to a family when the fiercest loyalties are not to each other, but to one's own secrets" and he has created a remarkable novel exploring the consequences of that concept.
The ending of the novel has left room for a possible sequel that I truly hope is in the works. Malloy is a fresh, creative and unique writer and I highly recommend reading this novel.
Amazon readers rating: from 69 reviews
(back to top)
Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
(back to top)
- Reading Group Guide for The Year of Ice
- The Celebrity Cafe review of The Year of Ice
- Star Tribune review of The Year of Ice
- The Gary Read review of The Year of Ice
(back to top)