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The kind that can change your life in an instant, before you have time to wish you can take it back.
I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but don't all stories begin this way? The stranger who comes to town and wreaks havoc. The man who stumbles off a cliff on his wedding day. The woman who goes to look out the window when a bullet, or a piece of glass, or a blue-white icicle pierces her breast. I was the child who stomped her feet and made a single wish and in so doing ended the whole world - my world, at any rate. The only thing that mattered. Of course 1 was self-centered, but don't most eight year-old girls think they're the queen of the universe? Don't they command the stars and seas? Don't they control the weather? When I closed my eyes to sleep at night, I imagined the rest of the world stopped as well. What I wanted, I thought I should get. What I wished for, I deserved.
I made my wish in January, the season of ice, when our house was cold and the oil bill went unpaid. It happened on the sixteenth, my mother's birthday. We had no father, my brother and I. Our father had run off; leaving Ned and me our dark eyes and nothing more. We depended on our mother. I especially didn't expect her to have a life of her own. I pouted when anything took her away, the bills that needed paying, the jobs that came and went, the dishes that needed washing, the piles of laundry. Endless, endless. Never ever done. That night my mother was going out with her two best friends to celebrate her birthday. I didn't like it one bit. It sounded like fun. She was off to the Bluebird Diner, a run-down place famous for its roast beef sandwiches and French fries with gravy. It was only a few hours on her own. It was just a tiny celebration.
I didn't care.
Maybe my father had been self-centered; maybe I'd inherited that from him along with the color of my eyes. I wanted my mother to stay home and braid my hair, which I wore long, to my waist. Loose, my hair knotted when I slept, and I worried; my brother had told me that bats lived in our roof. I was afraid they would fly into my room at night and make a nest in my head. I didn't want to stay home with my brother, who paid no attention to me and was interested more in science than in human beings. We argued over everything, including the last cookie in the jar, which we often grabbed at the same time. Let go! You first! Whatever we held often broke in our grasp. Ned had no time for a little sister's whims; he had to be bribed into reading to me. I'll do your chores. I'll give you my lunch money. Just read.
My mother didn't listen to my complaints. She was preoccupied. She was in a rush. She put on her raincoat and a blue scarf. Her hair was pale. She'd cut it herself, straining to see the back of her head in the mirror. She couldn't afford a real haircut at a salon; still she was pretty. We didn't talk about being poor; we never discussed what we didn't have. We ate macaroni three times a week and wore heavy sweaters to bed; we made do. Did I realize that night was my mother's thirtieth birthday, that she was young and beautiful and happy for once? To me, she was my mother. Nothing less or more. Nothing that didn't include me.
When she went to leave, I ran after her. I was barefoot on the porch and my feet stung. The rain had frozen and was hitting against the corrugated green fiberglass roof. It sounded like a gun. Ice had slipped onto the floorboards and turned the wood to glass. I begged my mother not to go. Queen of the universe. The girl who thought of no one but herself. Now I know the most desperate arguments are always over foolish things. The moment that changes the path of a life is the one that's invisible, that dissolves like sugar in water. But tell that to an eight-year-old girl. Tell it to anyone; see who believes you.
When my mother said that Betsy and Amanda were waiting for her and that she was already late, I made my wish. Right away, I could feel it burning. I could taste the bitterness of it; still I went ahead. I wished I would never see her again. I told her straight to her face. I wished she would disappear right there, right then.
My mother laughed and kissed me good-bye. Her kiss was clear and cold. Her complexion was pale, like snow. She whispered something to me, but I didn't listen. I wanted what I wanted. I didn't think beyond my own needs.
My mother had to start the car several times before the engine caught. There was smoke in the air. The roof of the patio vibrated along with the sputtering engine of the car. I could feel the sourness inside me. And here was the odd thing about making that wish, the one that made her disappear: it hurt.
"Come inside, idiot," my brother called to me. "The only thing you'll accomplish out there is freezing your ass off."
Ned was logical; he was four years older, an expert on constellations, red ants, bats, invertebrates. He had often told me that feelings were a waste of time. I didn't like to listen to Ned, even when he was right, so on that night I didn't answer. He shouted out a promise to read to me, even if it had to be fairy tales, stories he held in contempt. Irrational, impossible, illogical things. Even that wasn't enough for me to end my vigil. I couldn't stop looking at the empty street. Soon enough my brother gave up on me. Didn't everyone? My feet had turned blue and they ached, but I stood out there on the porch for quite a while. Until my tongue stopped burning. I looked out the window, and even Ned came to see, but there was nothing out there. Only the snow.
My mother had her accident on the service road leading to the Interstate. The police report blamed icy road conditions and bald tires that should have been replaced. But we were poor, did I tell you that? We couldn't afford new tires. My mother was half an hour late for her birthday dinner, then an hour; then her friend Betsy called the police. The next morning when our grandmother came to tell us the news, I braided my own hair for the first time, then cut it off with a pair of gardening shears. I left it behind for the bats. I didn't care. I'd started to wonder if my brother had been right all along. Don't feel anything. Don't even try.
After the funeral, Ned and I moved into our grandmother's house. We had to leave some of our things behind: my brother his colony of ants, and I left all my toys. I was too old for them now. My grandmother called what I'd done to my hair a pixie cut, but could she give a name to what I'd done to my mother? I knew, but I wasn't saying. My grandmother was too kind a person to know who was living under her roof. I'd destroyed my mother with words, so words became my enemy. I quickly learned to keep my mouth shut.
At night I told myself a story, wordless, inside my head, one I liked far better than those in my books. The girl in my story was treated cruelly, by fate, by her family, even by the weather. Her feet bled from the stony paths; her hair was plucked from her head by blackbirds. She went from house to house, looking for refuge. Not a single neighbor answered his door, and so one day the girl gave up speaking. She lived on the side of a mountain where every day was snowy. She stood outside without a roof, without shelter; before long she was made of ice-her flesh, her bones, her blood. She looked like a diamond; it was possible to spy her from miles away. She was so beautiful now that everyone wanted her: people came to talk to her, but she wouldn't answer. Birds lit on her shoulder; she didn't bother to chase them away. She didn't have to. If they took a single peck, their beaks would break in two. Nothing could hurt her anymore. After a while, she became invisible, queen of the ice. Silence was her language, and her heart had turned a perfect pale silver color. It was so hard nothing could shatter it. Not even stones.
"Physiologically impossible," my brother said the one time I dared to tell him the story. "In such low temperatures, her heart would actually freeze and then burst. She'd wind up melting herself with her own blood."
I didn't discuss such things with him again.
I knew what my role was in the world. I was the quiet girl at school, the best friend, the one who came in second place. I didn't want to draw attention to myself. I didn't want to win anything. There were words I couldn't bring myself to say; words like ruin and love and lost made me sick to my stomach. In the end, I gave them up altogether. But I was a good grandchild, quick to finish tasks, my grandmother's favorite. The more tasks, the less time to think. I swept, I did laundry, I stayed up late finishing my homework. By the time I was in high school, I was everyone's confidante; I knew how to listen. I was there for my friends, a tower of strength, ever helpful, especially when it came to their boyfriends, several of whom slept with me in senior year, grateful for my advice with their love lives, happy to go to bed with a girl who asked for nothing in return.
My brother went to Harvard, then to Cornell for his graduate degree; he became a meteorologist, a perfect choice for someone who wanted to impose logic onto an imperfect world. He was offered a position at Orlon College, in Florida, and before long he was a full professor, married to a mathematician, Nina, whom he idolized for her rational thought and beautiful complexion. As for me, I looked for a career where silence would be an asset. I went to the state university a few towns over, then to City College for a master's in library science. My brother found it especially amusing that my work was considered a science, but I took it quite seriously. I was assigned to the reference desk, still giving advice, as I had in high school; still the one to turn to for information. I was well liked at the library, the reliable employee who collected money for wedding presents and organized baby showers. When a co-worker moved to Hawaii I was persuaded to adopt her cat, Giselle, even though I was allergic.
But there was another, hidden side to me. My realest self. The one who remembered how the ice fell down, drop by bitter drop. The one who dreamed of cold, silver hearts. A devotee of death. I had become something of an expert on the many ways to die, and like any expert I had my favorites: bee stings, poisoned punch, electric shock. There were whole categories I couldn't get enough of: death by misadventure or by design, death pacts, death to avoid the future, death to circumvent the past. I doubted whether anyone else in the library was aware that rigor mortis set in within four hours. If they knew that when heated, arsenic had a garlic like odor. The police captain in town, Jack Lyons, who'd been in my brother's class in high school, often called for information regarding poison, suicide, infectious diseases. He trusted me, too.
Once I began researching death, I couldn't stop. It was my calling; I suppose it was a passion. I ordered medical texts, entomology books, the Merck manual of pharmaceuticals so as to be well versed in toxic side effects when Jack Lyons called. My favorite reference book was A Hundred Ways to Die, a guide for the terminally ill, those who might be in dire need of methods and procedures for their own demise. Still, I always asked Jack if he hadn't someone more qualified than I to do his research, but he said, "I know I'll just get the facts from you. No interpretations."
In that regard, he was wrong. I was quiet, but I had my opinions: when asked to recommend which fairy tales were best for an eight-year-old, for instance, Anderson's or Grimm's, I always chose Grimm's. Bones tied in silken cloth laid to rest under a juniper tree, boys who were foolish and brave enough to play cards with Death, wicked sisters whose own wickedness led them to hang themselves or jump headfirst into wells. On several occasions there had been complaints to the head librarian when irate mothers or teachers had inadvertently scared the daylights out of a child on my recommendation. All the same, I stood my ground. Andersen's world was filled with virtuous, respectable characters. I preferred tales in which selfish girls who lost their way needed to hack through brambles in order to reach home, and thoughtless, heedless brothers were turned into donkeys and swans, fleas itching like mad under their skin, blood shining from beneath their feathers. I didn't believe that people got what they deserved. I didn't believe in a rational, benevolent world that could be ordered to suit us, an existence presumed to fit snugly into an invented logic. I had no faith in pie charts or diagrams of humanity wherein the wicked were divided from the good and the forever after was in direct opposition to the here and now.
When I walked home from the library on windy nights, with the leaves swirling, and all of New Jersey dark and quiet, I wouldn't have been surprised to find a man with one wing sitting on the front steps of Town Hall, or to come upon a starving wolf on the corner of Fifth Street and Main. I knew the power of a single wish, after all. Invisible and inevitable in its effect, like a butterfly that beats its wings in one corner of the globe and with that single action changes the weather halfway across the world. Chaos theory, my brother had informed me, was based on the mathematical theorem that suggests that the tiniest change affects everything, no matter how distant, including the weather. My brother could call it whatever he wanted to; it was just fate to me.
Excerpted from The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
From the get-go I was hooked. Hoffman has the knack for creating a narrative that is compelling. The main character, who remains nameless through the whole book, is a woman obsessed with death. As a young girl, she gets mad at her mom as she is driving away. In a moment of fury, she wishes her mom dead. It is the dead of winter and the next day, the young girl wakes up to find that her mom was killed in a car accident. Her wish had come true.
Later in the story, the girl moves to Florida with her brother. Florida is the lightning capital of the world. The woman is fascinated by lightning. So fascinated she wonders what it would be like to be struck by it. So she wishes, out loud, that she would be struck by lightning.
Hoffman describes the effects of lightning strikes on people. The narrator, for instance, can no longer see red after she is struck. She is also constantly cold and she begins to refer to herself as an ice queen because she can no longer feel.
Then she meets Lazarus. A man who was struck by lightning, died, and then came back to life. She is fascinated by him because he could be someone that would not be affected by her death wishes. An odd romance ensues between the narrator and Lazarus.
There is more but I will not spoil it for you. Go find it and read it. It is really a story about the redemptive power of love.
I loved how Hoffman made the surreal and the real entwine. It felt like a magical book but there really was no magic in it. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading Jodi Picoult or other authors like her.
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Posted September 25, 2011
Posted December 30, 2012
Posted August 6, 2011
Posted July 4, 2011
This author starts at point a jumps to point f jumps back to point b and so forth. I am an avid reader but i would not recommend it to anyone that was even minutely sane. I wouldnt even let a insane person read it. I am so glad i borrowed it from the library instead of buying it. Take my advice do not read this book.
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Posted June 4, 2011
A book that flowed like a stream consciousness - which unfortunately I wasn't a fan of. The story overall was intriguing, but because of the writing style, it wasn't my favorite.
The use of strong adverbs made me fall in love with her descriptions of the "effects" of lightning strike survivors. I adored the relationship between the brother and sister and how the early death of their mother affected the both of them in two totally different ways. But through these likes, I still had a hard time reading and enjoying this one.
I would only recommend this book to those who love things that are artsy. Imagery and visualization would be key when reading this book.
Posted January 23, 2011
I have read many of Alice Hoffman's novels and enjoyed every single one of them but I was very disappointed in this book. When reading the overview I thought it seemed interesting. Boy was I wrong! It was slow and very depressing and a HUGE waste of my time. To me, it didn't seem as if there was much of a plot or climax and it was just plain boring. The book is only 138 pages but it took me 2 weeks to read because I had to force myself to pick it up. Also paying $9.99 for 138 pages?!?!?!? I was really upset about that too.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 12, 2010
Well written, by an incredible author, this story is imaginative and deep. Deals with loss and acceptance, and takes you on a journey of personal insight as the main character, a librarian from New Jersey deals with abandonment and death obsessions and moves on to a lighter placeWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 20, 2009
Alice definitely knows her stuff when it comes to Lightning! The story line was a bit sad as the main character was so determined to self-destruct until she realized the gifts she was endowed with. I felt my own history come through the character on several occasions and also knew that I had discovered my own talents and gifts over the years as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 26, 2009
I wanted to love this book; unfortunately, that was not the case. The story's main character was overy tragic. The backstory concerning her mother's death lacked depth, and, her brother, who seems absent through most of the story, I cared very little about even as he deals with some devistating news. The relationship between her and Lazerus Jones seemed doomed from the beginning so the outcome was no surprise. Though it is a relatively short novel, it took me several weeks to get through it. If I had to judge this book based on not having read any Alice Hoffman novels, I would give it an average grade. But, having read two others I enjoyed much more, I found this one very disappointing.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 19, 2009
To me the book was very depressing. Even though the characters were finding ways to cope with what life had dealt them, there was always an underlying feeling of heaviness and darkness the whole way through.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 24, 2009
This was an interesting story, and even left me a bit confused at the end, but that will only spur me to read it again! The plot unraveled slowly, and never gave itself away. I read it in one night, since it isn't a very long book - I would definitely recommend it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 19, 2008
Posted August 25, 2008
I found this book to be easy to follow and very relaxing to read. The only downside is i feel like she didnt finish some of the short problems i think some of the ideas got cut short it would have been better if this book was a little longer! but still it was a good book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 4, 2008
It was not one of the best books I have read. I thought there were to many story lines and none of them seemed to be the main plot. The ending only made me angry and left me feeling like there should me more to the 'stories'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 7, 2008
The book has a great premise, and it was interesting to learn about lightening strikes. However, it was written in an odd way, with a lot of superfluous musings and no real central plot and therefore, no closing/climax. I finished it, but wasn't impressed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 2, 2009
Remember childhood superstitions? 'Step on a crack, you'll break your mother's back.' So, as youngsters we did all we could do to avoid those sidewalk cracks. How about wishing upon a star? Many of us once believed that if you wished upon the first star you saw at night and wished hard enough that wish just might come true. Fortunately, most of us do not have the ability of Alice Hoffman's narrator who begins her story by saying, 'Be careful what you wish for. I know that for a fact. Wishes are brutal, unforgiving things, they burn your tongue the moment they're spoken and you can never take them back. They bruise and bake and come back to haunt you. I've made far too many wishes in my lifetime, the first when I was eight years old.' Her wish was that she would never see her mother again, and that proved to be true. A fatal automobile accident on an icy road takes her mother's life and forever changes our heroine who grows up to become a librarian, an ice queen if you will, remaining apart, aloof and trying to convince herself that she does not care. Ned, her older brother by four years, takes a different route. He becomes a meteorologist, studying adverse weather conditions. In adulthood he invites her to join him in Florida. Once there, she is struck by lightning which serves to melt her long nurtured reserve. There are many other survivors of lightning strikes, one in particular - Lazarus Jones, who was supposedly dead for forty minutes after being struck. Once she begins to thaw the ice queen realizes all that she has been missing and seeks out Lazarus. The love affair that develops between them is pure Hoffman - a bit of magic as fire meets ice. Written in impeccable prose, The Ice Queen is superbly crafted, the work of a master wordsmith. This all too brief story is an affirmation of life and all that it offers it is one we will not soon forget. Enjoy! - Gail CookeWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 2, 2009
Remember childhood superstitions? 'Step on a crack, you'll break your mother's back.' So, as youngsters we did all we could do to avoid those sidewalk cracks. How about wishing upon a star? Many of us once believed that if you wished upon the first star you saw at night and wished hard enough that wish just might come true. Fortunately, most of us do not have the ability of Alice Hoffman's narrator who begins her story by saying, 'Be careful what you wish for. I know that for a fact. Wishes are brutal, unforgiving things, they burn your tongue the moment they're spoken and you can never take them back. They bruise and bake and come back to haunt you. I've made far too many wishes in my lifetime, the first when I was eight years old.' Her wish was that she would never see her mother again, and that proves to be true. A fatal automobile accident on an icy road takes her mother's life and forever changes our heroine who grows up to become a librarian, an ice queen if you will, remaining apart, aloof and trying to convince herself that she does not care. Ned, her older brother by four years, takes a different route. He becomes a meteorologist, studying adverse weather conditions. In adulthood he invites her to join him in Florida. Once there, she is struck by lightning which serves to melt her long nurtured reserve. There are many other survivors of lightning strikes, one in particular - Lazarus Jones, who was supposedly dead for forty minutes after being struck. Once she begins to thaw the ice queen realizes all that she has been missing and seeks out Lazarus. The love affair that develops between them is pure Hoffman - a bit of magic as fire meets ice. Written in impeccable prose, The Ice Queen is superbly crafted, the work of a master wordsmith. This all too brief story is an affirmation of life and all that it offers. it is one we will not soon forget. Stage, film and television actress Nancy Travis gives a superb voice performance, appropriately reflecting first the pain and then the recovery of a human spirit. - Gail CookeWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 31, 2006
The story starts off about a girl and all the traumatic things that happen in her life. Throughout the book it seems as though the seasons change from winter to spring. It shows another side of a person¿s life, that you wouldn¿t expect. Throughout the book, it seems like you could feel some sort of sympathy for her. Her transformation being a quite mysterious person to an open joyous woman compels the reader to want more. Keeping her name anonymous throughout the books questions the reader the whole time. Getting struck by lightening is just a beginning to this mystical story of desire, hope and love. Ice Queen is one of the best books that Alice Hoffman has ever written. I liked the book because it had a mysterious tone to it. Her name being anonymous and how you can feel some sort of compassion for her brings more interest to the story. To see her transformation throughout the book from a delicate bud to a blooming rose showed an original idea for this book. It seems like you are the bird eyes view of this person. I liked how it dealt with certain topics that was part of the story. The story flow had a nice theme of a girl with a frozen heart and slowly thawing out in the end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 2, 2006
¿The Ice Queen¿ has a simple but meaningful theme, be careful what you wish for. A simple wish can turn your life upside down in a matter of seconds. An anonymous narrator tells the story. She made one idle wish as a young little girl that her mother would disappear. Her mother¿s death is what made her a cold and careless person. She not longer believed in love and was afraid of being too emotionally attached to anyone. After getting struck by lightning she meets another lightning strike survivor, Lazarus. He is her opposite. She is a cold person and he is fire. Her cold heart begins to melt with the arrival of Lazarus. She lets down her guard and begins to feel the one emotion she feared the most. But will their love be enough to surpass all of her fears and allow her to climb the mountain over to reach true happiness? The biggest conflict of the book is this girl trying to overcome her fears and making an attempt to feel love. ¿The Ice Queen¿ is the story of this girls inner most fears and trying to over come them. She is a cold person unable to care for anyone but by letting this man come into her life and allow her to love she is able to just get up and walk away from her fears that otherwise hold her back. The most ironic part of the book is her meeting her exact opposite. Lazarus is everything she was afraid of having. He is fire and she is ice. She allows herself to meet someone she would never associate with. These two people are brought together by fate. Both struck by lightning and drawn to each other. There relationship is the perfect example of opposites attracting. ¿The best way to die is while you are still living¿ I think this quote summarizes the whole book. It means living your life to the fullest. Taking in all of the good and bad things that life has to give and make the most out of it. This girl has been emotionally scarred and was ready to give up but by allowing herself to care for someone else she can get over the other fears that hold her back. Maybe loving someone will help her stop feeling responsible for her mother¿s death. This whole book teaches a very valuable lesson words are like treasure be careful how you use it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.