Year of Ice: A Novel

( 29 )

Overview

It is 1978 in the Twin Cities, and Kevin Doyle, a high school senior, is a marginal student in love with keggers, rock and roll, and—unbeknownst to anyone else—a boy in his class with thick eyelashes and a bad attitude. His mother Eileen died two years earlier when her car plunged into the icy waters of the Mississippi River, and since then Kevin's relationship with his father Patrick has become increasingly distant. As lonely women vie for his father's attention, Kevin discovers Patrick's own closely guarded ...

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The Year of Ice: A Novel

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Overview

It is 1978 in the Twin Cities, and Kevin Doyle, a high school senior, is a marginal student in love with keggers, rock and roll, and—unbeknownst to anyone else—a boy in his class with thick eyelashes and a bad attitude. His mother Eileen died two years earlier when her car plunged into the icy waters of the Mississippi River, and since then Kevin's relationship with his father Patrick has become increasingly distant. As lonely women vie for his father's attention, Kevin discovers Patrick's own closely guarded secret: he had planned to abandon his family for another woman. More disturbingly, his mother's death may well have been a suicide, not an accident.

Complicating the family dynamic is the constant meddling of Kevin's outspoken Aunt Nora—who will never forgive Patrick for Eileen's death—along with Patrick's inability to stay single for very long. His loyalties divided between his father and his aunt, between his internal reality and his public persona, Kevin is forced to accept his gay identity and reevaluate his notions of family and love as painful truths emerge about both.

Winner of a 2003 Alex Award from the American Library Association and Booklist.
Finalist for a 2003 Ferro-Grumley Award.
Finalist for the Violet Quill Award.

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Editorial Reviews

Philadelphia Inquirer
Malloy's supporting characters are complex and fascinating...but it's Kevin himself that makes the novel, a kid with problems serious and mundane who still gets by without losing his mind, his heart or his sense of humor.
Out Magazine
…an impressive debut…it's Malloy's voice and his attention to detail that resonate so beautifully.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
In The Year of Ice, first-time novelist Brian Malloy writes like a seasoned author. The story is a grabber from the get-go. The Year of Ice extends far beyond the humdrum coming-out/coming-of-age genre. Family dysfunction, honor and honesty are all major themes, filtered through the limitations of a teenager's mindset and handled with deft humor.
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
Luck may have hard a part in getting The Year of Ice published, but reviews show that Malloy's writing talent won him the contract.
Echo Magazine
Malloy is in complete control throughout: whether communicating images of an icy midwestern winter or eliciting the complexities of relationships that are chilling and thawing. He also does a bang up job with humor...unique and new.
Booklist Starred Review
…this book's a beauty, whatever you call it.
Columbus Alive
...dark, funny, brilliant, poignant - you know, all the best adjectives.
Courier Post
Malloy's vivid characters, pungent observations and abundant wit lend The Year of Ice a fresh resonance...Malloy skillfully renders the emotional climate of working class, Irish-Catholic life...and the author absolutely nails several painfully funny coming out milestones..
Empire Magazine
…this summer's perfect read.
Frontiers Magazine
Brian Malloy has written a delightful first novel…Malloy blends in an undercurrent of class conflict without mocking either Kevin's working-class background or the privileged liberalism of the rich kids he encounters
Empty Closet
The Year of Ice is an artfully written portrait of a young man coming to terms with the world. Told with a keen and perceptive style, the story touches the hearts of all who have been young, of all who have struggled with identity, of all who have lost a sense of place and purpose, and all who have found that place again.
Publishers Weekly
A gay high school senior struggles to cope with his father's irresponsibility in Malloy's poignant, quietly effective debut, set in Minneapolis in the late '70s. From the outside looking in, protagonist Kevin Doyle seems like a normal, party-happy 17-year-old, but the combination of a troubled family life and his secret crush on one of his best friends definitely sets him apart from the pack. The family issues revolve around his dad, Pat, an ordinary 40-something widower with plenty of romantic prospects as the book opens. But Kevin is furious when he learns that Pat's infidelity may have contributed to the car accident that took his mother's life, and his anger increases exponentially when his father impregnates the woman he had the affair with, then marries her after a brief dalliance with another woman. Malloy's coming-of-age narrative can be generic, but he handles the gay angle nicely as he explores Kevin's difficulty in finding an outlet for his hormonal urges even as he struggles to maintain a relationship with a classmate named Allison Minczeski, who falls for him. The author also displays a razor-sharp comic touch in the verbal sparring between father and son as Pat tries to bring his instant family together, and he balances the comedy with some touching scenes after Pat messes up his latest domestic venture. Malloy shows plenty of talent in his gay spin on the genre, and this debut bodes well for his literary future. Midwest regional author tour. (July) Forecast: Though St. Martin's could easily niche this title as gay fiction, the publisher's decision to market it as general fiction is a commendable way to introduce this talented writer to a larger audience. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The year 1978, when he graduates from high school and goes off to college, is not Kevin Doyle's best. Not only is he head-over-heels in love with classmate Jon Thompson, who is oblivious to Kevin's interest (and would be horrified if he even suspected the attraction), but Kevin learns that the accident that killed his mother two years before was most likely an act of suicide. (When she learned that her husband was planning to run off with his married lover, she drove off the road into a river and drowned.) Kevin's knowledge leads him to a showdown with his father, who continues to reveal himself as not just an inadequate father and cheating husband but a pretty rotten person. Malloy's first novel is heartfelt but ultimately unsuccessful-Kevin never quite makes the leap to three dimensions, and in many respects he seems to be a cartoon version of a real boy (sentences like "I love him so much I could puke my guts out all over the floor" don't help). Malloy can't quite decide if this is a story about coming to terms with one's sexual orientation or one about working through a troubled father/son relationship, and consequently neither works particularly well. Recommended only for comprehensive fiction collections.-Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A coming-of-ager about a gay teenager in the 1970s Twin Cities. Kevin Doyle is the sort of outwardly normal midwestern type that Garrison Keillor works into his Prairie Home Companion routines. An easygoing jock at Northeast High in Minneapolis in 1978, Kevin hangs out with friends, gossips about who got sickest last Saturday, bags groceries at the Red Owl, and makes fun of his teachers behind their backs. He is also in love with classmate Jon Thompson. Kevin's mother died in a car accident two years earlier, and the boy helps his father fend off the widows lining up for him by claiming his father is about to remarry, or has become a Muslim, or is moving away. Unfortunately for Kevin, the girls seem to be lining up for him, too, and he tries hard to avoid getting involved without letting on that he's gay. One night, however, he is so horrified at finding his beloved Jon Thompson hitting on classmate Allison that he asks Allison out himself-and she accepts. Soon he finds he's fallen for Jon more deeply than he could have hoped. About the same time, he learns that his father had been seeing another woman when his mother had her accident-or could it have been suicide? Spiteful Aunt Nora is happy to provide plenty of innuendo, and Kevin takes advantage of his position at the Red Owl to wreak revenge on the other woman, a regular customer. Eventually, he comes to terms with his father and finds some measure of domestic peace, but Kevin also figures out that the best way to get on in life is to get on in the world-and move away from home. Amiable, told briskly and with considerably style-and happily lacking in the mawkish cant that mars so many gay memoirs. First-timer Malloy is director of theLoft in Minneapolis.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312313692
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/11/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 799,273
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Malloy is the development director for The Loft, the largest independent literary arts center in the U.S., as well as grants director for Open Book, a community center for the literary and book arts. He lives in Minneapolis. The Year of Ice is his first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

The Year of Ice

1

THE ABSOLUTE STILLNESS OF THE WHITE

JANUARY 1978

Aunt Nora always says that people can still surprise you. I never got what she meant by that until last fall. I mean, Floyd Anderson always seemed normal enough. He's an old Swede who has been our neighbor for as long as I can remember. He's always had a good word for everybody He always told the same jokes, always talked about the weather, and always kept his sidewalk clean as a whistle even during the worst snowfalls. You could set your watch by Floyd Anderson.

Then he began wearing a pyramid on his head right around Halloween. He bought it at one of those hippie shops on the West Bank, where all the sixties burnouts live. They sell them in stores that are full of body oils and incense and rolling papers andbongs. Floyd's pyramid's not a hat; it's this kind of dumb-ass thing that's supposed to make you, like, calm or happy or some weird shit like that. It wasn't until a couple of weeks after he got it, when the thermometer dropped below zero, that he'd put a hat on underneath it. I'd watch him from my bedroom window, shoveling his walk, covered from head to toe against the windchill, the dull brass of the pyramid reflecting the winter sun.

His wife left him about three weeks ago. They'd been married almost forty years.

Dad said, "Makes you think." But he was wrong; it didn't make me think. Not much does. I'm not proud of it or anything, I'm just telling the truth.

When I see Floyd at Red Owl, where I bag groceries after school, he smiles at me and says, "You really have to get one of these." He means his pyramid. "I feel psychically healed. It'll bring you peace."

Floyd's not lying. Rumor had it that he'd wanted to leave his wife but never had the nerve.

"I don't think so, Mr. Anderson," I always tell him.

"You don't know what you're missing," he says as he grabs his bag of Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Del Monte pudding cups from me. "Don't know what you're missing," he says again, like I hadn't heard him the first time.

Once he's out the sliding doors, Lorraine, the checker who works with me at register three, says, "Is he seeing anyone, do you know?"

I look at her like she's mental. "You mean Floyd Anderson?"

Yes, Floyd Anderson, she nods, showing me her black and gray roots.

"You're too good for him," I tell her.

She sighs and says under her breath, "Let me be the judge of who I'm too good for, thank you very much."

 

 

Lorraine gave up on my dad around Labor Day. He kept telling her he wasn't ready to start dating yet. Dad's a good-looking manand what they call in my biology class an endangered species: a single middle-aged man. He had to stop going to a Catholic support group for people whose spouses died 'cause the widows wouldn't leave him alone. They'd call him at all hours, sometimes drunk, and once he stopped answering the phone, they'd ask me for advice:

"What does he like to do?"

"What's his favorite meal?"

"Would he like to go to a Northstars game, do you think?"

I'd just stare at the receiver, feeling a little sorry for these women who'd been cheated out of a husband so early in life. Out of loyalty to my mom, who died in a car accident, I'd tell them that Dad had a girlfriend and to stop calling our house. But they didn't, not until Dad broke down and paid the extra money for an unlisted number.

When that happened, they started dropping by with little gifts for him. Now he has to go down the basement or hide upstairs in his room anytime the doorbell rings. It's my job to put the widows off his scent. A lot of them bring ties, something Dad doesn't need—he works day shifts at the Highland Park Ford plant—and ! I wonder if all these male presents used to belong to the dead husbands.

"I never see your father at church anymore," one of the widows said to me, a brightly wrapped box of cuff links in her shivering hands.

I had Dad's permission to say whatever I needed to to get rid of them. I told her, "He's converting."

With her teeth chattering—I never let the widows inside—she asked: "To what?"

"Islam." We were studying world religions during fourth-period history.

The next time she showed up at the door, she was wearing one of those veil things over her face and had the Koran with her.

Okay, so she didn't show up in a veil with the Koran. She never came back at all; I think I kind of freaked her out with theMuslim stuff. But as Aunt Nora says, "Any story worth telling is worth exaggerating."

The smart widows bring something for me. One gave me a twenty-dollar gift certificate to Positively Fourth Street, a record store and head shop near the U. To these women I'm polite, but no more encouraging.

"He's out on a date."

"He's gone on a vacation with his girlfriend."

"He's engaged."

Mom's funeral had to be held on my sixteenth birthday To compensate, Dad gave me a hundred bucks. I still have it stashed in my sock drawer, along with the money I make at Red Owl.

 

 

I've been thinking about Mom a lot lately 'cause the second anniversary is coming up. For example, I remember my first day back on the school bus after her funeral. A really weird girl, Laurie Lindstrom, tried to be nice to me. Laurie always read books about horses and had no friends. Her parents had been murdered when they were camping up on the north shore. A motorcycle gang beat them to death as part of some weird initiation for new members. It made the national news, and somebody wrote a book about it that's being turned into a TV movie of the week. Far as I know, Laurie hasn't gotten any money from it.

She'd sat next to me on the bus and said, "I know how hard it is to lose your mother. I got a postcard from mine two days after she died."

I tried to imagine what it must have said.

Dear Laurie,

Aiiiiiiiiiiiie! Help us! For the love of God, HELP US!

Love, Mom

Or maybe:

Dear Laurie,

Daddy and I are being hacked to death by satanic bikers. Wish you were here.

Love, Mom

I told her, "Thanks."

"If you ever want to talk—"

"Thanks," I told her again, my voice a NO TRESPASSING sign.

I don't see Laurie much now that I don't take the bus to school anymore. Tommy, my best friend since I was a little kid, got a '71 Dodge Challenger and picks me up every morning when he can get it started. It makes a blub-blub-blub sound and stalls out whenever he makes a right turn. Still, it's very cool. Tommy and I belong to a clique that wears flannel shirts, smokes Camels, and goes to keggers every weekend. As members of the class of '78, we've already been counseled to go to vo-techs after we graduate this June so we can learn a trade. Tommy's gonna be an auto mechanic; I haven't decided what I'm gonna do.

Dad wants me to go to the U—they have to take any idiot with a high school diploma or GED in the General College program. In four years I'd graduate with a general degree and begin a general life. I told Dad that I'd think about it, but last week he told me: "Oh, you're going, young man. Don't think you're not going." Dad hates his job; he has for as long as I can remember. Some weeks he drank himself sick because he couldn't face one more day at the plant. When he was drunk he'd say, "That goddamn plant's killing me."

He wants me to get an education so I can get a higher-paying job of my own to hate.

 

 

Tommy says that General College is a waste of time, I should go to Dunwoody with him and become an electrician or draftsman or something. Or cooler yet, go to Brown Institute over on Lake Street and get a job in radio. We're lined up at one end of VanCleve Park waiting for the kickoff. Most Sundays we play Snow Football with some guys I guess you'd call our friends. I've dragged Tommy here every week for a month, even though he'd rather be inside cranking tunes and smoking weed.

"I dunno," I say. "It's only January. I got time."

Tommy tells me that he's already applied to Dunwoody Institute. He's making plans for his future, even if I'm not. While we wait for the kickoff he pushes his long dirty blond hair behind his ears. He looks like one of the Allman Brothers, except with normal-colored skin.

The ball flies at us and I catch it, but it's frozen and slick and it pops out of my hands like a wet bar of soap. The challenge of snow football is possession; that's what makes it so much better than regular football.

"Shit!"

Jon Thompson's already made it down the field and snags the ball, bad news for my side. The good news is that I'm six-two and weigh 185 pounds so it's easy for me to knock him on his ass. On the way down I hug him hard; Jon's a fox. He's got these really big eyelashes and hair that's the same color as chocolate. You could say that I'm in love with Jon. So I just lie there on top of him. This is like the only time I can get away with it without people shitting their pants.

"Get offa me," he says.

"Okay, tough guy," I tell him and I slap the side of his head. I do this for two reasons, really. First, 'cause if I smack him, nobody will guess that I want to pick him up in my arms and kiss him really hard, right on his lips. And second, he's got to be reminded that I'm tougher than he is. Wolves do this all the time to keep order in the pack. I'm the alpha; he's the beta. That's the way it always has been and that's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh. If anybody knew I liked KC and The Sunshine Band I'd have to drop out.

We wait for the snap and Tommy says, "One of these days somebody's gonna beat the crap outta you."

I shrug and say, "Nobody here."

Tommy looks around. "Nah, I guess not. But someday, somebody will."

Rick Foley falls back with the ball and I pound into Jon Thompson again. This time he doesn't yell at me to get off him, he's afraid to. He just waits quietly for me to get up. I smile and wink at him. He thinks I'm being a jerk, but my wink is sincere. And it's a thrill, maybe the only one I'll ever get to have.

Wherever Jon is on the field, I'm soon on top of him. He feels like heaven underneath me. We don't say a word to each other and he never looks me in the eye. It's easy to pretend that he's in my bed and that I'm holding him.

Tommy notices that I won't cut for a break He says, "You got it in for that guy, or what?"

I choose what.

 

 

That night, alone in my bed, 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 people only 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.

Don't be mental, Jon, I'm never gonna leave you. I love you.

He puts his hand on my cheek, and that's when I hear the scraping of Floyd Anderson's shovel against the sidewalk. We've only had a dusting but Floyd spazzes out if there's even one speck of snow on the concrete. Somebody might slip in front of his house and sue him, and then he'd lose everything, and then what'd he do?

I leave Jon alone on my bed and look out the window at Floyd. He's in his blue snowsuit, and the snownakcs sparkle in the light of the streetlamps. He's resting, or maybe he's reveling in the absolutestillness of the white like Mom used to do. Or maybe he's receiving secret messages from the CIA through the pyramid on top of his head. He doesn't budge for a minute, maybe two, and then the scrape, scrape, scrape begins again, echoing off the houses and apartment buildings and making the Bartochevitzes' dog Max bark.

I go back to my bed and Jon's gone; the stack of pillows is just a stack of pillows. I stare at the ceiling for a long time, blankly, the same way Mom used to stare when she'd sit out on the front stoop in her ugly plaid coat and watch the snow fall. She'd be out there for hours, not budging an inch. When I do fall asleep I dream of snow Of the absolute stillness of the white.

 

 

There's a widow at the front door when I leave for school in the morning. She's one of the regulars; her name's Jackie Shaw. You can tell that she used to smile a lot. She has these really deep crow's-feet like the canals on Mars that we're studying in science class. Rick Foley thinks that Martians made them, but he can be a big fucking burnout 'cause he's done way too many drugs. Still, it'd be cool if there were Martians. Maybe on their planet guys can marry guys.

"Why, good morning, Kevin," Jackie Shaw says, sweet as you please. "I just wanted to drop these off for you boys. I bet you don't get many hot breakfasts these days."

Steam comes from the box she hands me.

"They're cinnamon rolls with real cream icing," she tells me. "Just the thing to warm you up."

"Thanks."

She looks past me, into the sitting room. "Is your father at home? Maybe he'd like me to make a pot of coffee to wash these down with."

Dad's upstairs getting ready for work, but I don't tell her that. Instead I say, "Dad had an early shift today. He's left already"

Her face falls a little bit, but then she rebounds. "Well, you enjoy those then. Would you let your father know I stopped by?"

I hear the blub-blub-blub of Tommy's Challenger. In exactly three seconds he will honk the horn twice.

"Yeah. Thanks, Mrs. Shaw."

Beep! Beep!

This is when Mrs. Bartochevitz opens her front door and yells at Tommy for blasting his horn. I think she waits there for him.

"Do you have to do that?" she shouts at his car.

In exactly five seconds Mrs. Bartochevitz will put her hands on her hips and scream across the street at me.

"That's my ride," I tell Mrs. Shaw.

"Does your friend have to do that?" Mrs. Bartochevitz wants to knows.

I wave in Mrs. Shaw's direction and jump in Tommy's car.

"What's that?" he asks, pointing at the box.

"Cinnamon rolls," I tell him. The love potion of widows.

 

 

Exactly two years ago, this very minute, everything was normal. I walked the halls oblivious to Jon Thompson and his chocolate hair. Mom was alive and at the Midway Target, getting paper towels and laundry detergent, and a bag of Old Dutch ripple potato chips for me. The house smelled like lemons and my father was busy stacking palettes of cardboard stock against a plant wall. Exactly two years ago, twenty minutes from now, Mom's car slid off East River Road, rolled down an embankment, and crashed into the ice covering the Mississippi. Exactly two years ago, one hundred and forty-three minutes from now, my teacher told me to report to the school nurse's office where I found my Aunt Nora waiting for me. She said I should come live with her.

But right now, I'm late for English Lit.

I see Jon Thompson in the hallway and I say hey. He looks at me weird and says, "Hey" He keeps walking but I reach out and touch him on his bony shoulder. He stops and turns toward me, maybe waiting for another smack. Guys are always pissing on each other's trees; it's like we can't help it.

I say, real casual, like I'm asking what time it is, "Any parties this weekend?"

"Haven't heard," he tells me.

I look at him. What do you say to the boy that you love whenyou aren't supposed to love boys? Everything that I can think of sounds faggy to me.

"Okay," I say.

He frowns. "If I knew of any, I'd tell you," he says, all defensive-like.

"It's cool, man," I say, and I bolt, down the hall and away from him. Away from his deep brown eyes with the big cow lashes. Away from his scrawny shoulder that makes my hand shake like I'm a spaz or something.

Class has started by the time I get there. I sit on the white side of the room next to Rick Foley, who's nodding his head in time to a tune only he can hear. He smiles at me; he's drawing a pair of biker-chick booths in his notebook and the teacher thanks me for being so kind to stop by. His name is Mr. Hayes, a.k.a. Fey Hayes, the faggiest teacher at Northeast High. He looks like he's sixty and in pain. All the time.

He turns back to Donnell White, who is black, one of the many new kids from Chicago and Gary, Indiana, who're starting to freak out the teachers. "We speak proper English here, Mr. White," he says, "not urban slang. I seriously doubt that our country's greatest poet would appreciate your interpretation of his crowning achievement."

Donnell doesn't say anything.

"Try again," Fey Hayes tells him, and Donnell begins reading "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" out loud.

"'may little horse must think it queer ...'"

We all laugh.

Fey Hayes shakes his head. "Why is that necessary?" he wants to know. "The horse is used to a certain way of doing things, and on this night the routine is set aside. It's queer. Not the norm. Is that so difficult for you to understand?" He sighs, hanging his head. "I see that people of your generation fail to appreciate the conflict between free will and social obligation."

Donnell can't go on; he's laughing too hard and tears roll down his cheeks. Fey Hayes shakes his head and calls on me. "Mr. Doyle, would you please do the honors?"

"What page are we on?" I ask, shuffling through my copy of Contemporary American Poetry.

Barely opening his tight faggy mouth, Fey Hayes tells me, "Page thirty-four. Begin at 'he gives.'"

I search the page and find where Donnell left off. "'He gives his harness bells a shake to ask if there is some mistake.'"

Fey Hayes stops me. "Is there some mistake, Mr. Doyle?"

I look up from my book. "No."

Fey Hayes is staring a hole in my head. "He's stopping on purpose?"

"Yeah."

"Why would that be?"

"To watch the woods fill up with snow."

Fey Hayes tilts his fey head. "Is that the only reason he's stopping?"

I look back at my book and read ahead a little bit. "Yeah, I guess so."

"So when Frost writes, 'The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep,' do you suppose he moves on or does he stay where he is?"

I don't know

Fey Hayes knows that I don't know. So he says: "Now tell me, Mr. Doyle, why would you stop to watch the woods fill up with snow?"

Exactly two years ago this very second everything was normal. In five minutes, exactly two years ago, nothing would ever be again.

 

 

Dad's been watching me closely all night, afraid I might freak out or something. Neither of us has said boo about the second anniversary. Once in a while the phone rings and somebody offers us their condolences. None of Mom's relatives call, they're all still in Ireland, except for my Aunt Nora. Aunt Nora doesn't call; Dad wouldn't give her our new phone number.

We stare at the TV "You're awfully quiet tonight," he says to me.

I grunt.

"Anything the matter?" he asks, hoping I'll say no.

"Nah."

When the doorbell rings, it's Jackie Shaw, not the pizza guy. She couldn't have timed this any better if she'd tried. Normally Dad would be upstairs in his room waiting for the all clear. She spots him as she sticks her head past me and through the doorway

"Pat!" she squeals, not believing her own eyes. "They've been working you much too hard down at the plant!"

"Jackie," Dad says, like he's just learned how to talk. He stands up, and looking at the floor he says, "Come on in out of the cold."

Jackie Shaw's throwing off more heat than our furnace. "Thank you, thank you! I just wanted to drop this off for you boys," she says, a pie plate covered with Reynolds Wrap in her hands. "I hope you like pecan."

The bell rings again, and Jackie shoots a nasty look at the door. When she sees it's the pizza guy and not some other widow, she beams and says, "Oh, no! Not pizza! You two need a good home-cooked meal. Let me fix you something nice."

Dad's still standing; his hands in his pockets. He says, "Really, Jackie, you don't have to do that. Why don't you sit down and have a slice with us."

Jackie shakes her head no, but she's saying, "Oooh, a piece of pizza sounds like just the thing. It's bitter out there."

As if God himself—the Old Testament one—could get her to leave.

I pay the pizza guy with the twenty Dad gave me and I keep the change, a tradition of ours since Mom died. Dad's been a lot nicer to me since it happened, you can tell he's really trying hard. I'll put his change in my sock drawer with the rest of my money.

Jackie Shaw slips out of her black coat and she's wearing a black dress, nylons, and heels in spite of the fact that it's ten below out. The war paint's on extra thick; she's on the hunt tonight. She sits on the couch right next to Dad and tsk-tsks.

"You look tired, Pat," she says as she pets Dad's hair into place.

"I'm fine," Dad tells her.

She sighs and folds her hands in her lap. Her nails are flaming red and it almost hurts to look at them. She says, "It was two years ago today, wasn't it?"

I see Dad wince from where I sit across the room. He nods and Jackie pouts.

"You poor—"

"The pizza's scrump-dilly-icious," I say.

Dad winks at me. "I didn't know how hungry I was," he says.

 

 

We've eaten all the pizza, half the pecan pie, and drunk a pot of Sanka and still Jackie Shaw won't budge.

I've got no choice so I say, "Good night." I can't think of one more thing to say to this woman and neither can Dad. I don't want to leave him alone with her but I can't keep my eyes open another second.

"You sleep tight, Kevin," Jackie Shaw says to me with a smile, like she thinks she's my mom or something.

I just look at her like she cut one and head upstairs. The treads creak beneath my feet, old and tired. When I pull the door open to my room, Jon Thompson's waiting for me in my bed. I smile, then he smiles too. He pats the mattress and says, room for two. I pull off my clothes and goose pimples are all over my skin, so I jump on the mattress and pull the covers over us, hard. We play, tickling each other and wrestling a little. We laugh and make out and then laugh again. After the usual lovey-dovey stuff, he asks me about Mom.

What was she like, Jon wants to know.

I tell him that she was small and timid and scared of her own shadow.

Did you love her, Jon asks as he runs his fingers through my hair.

Yeah, I guess I did. She was really quiet. She never said too much. But she always told me I was becoming a very handsome young man. Dad never says that. Dad never says much of anything.

Jon holds me tighter. Dads don't say that kind of thing, justMoms. It must have been very hard for you, losing her the way you did.

Yeah, it was pretty weird.

What do you mean?

The thing is, I whisper to Jon, I never got to see her after she died. There was too much damage. I had to say good-bye to a closed casket. Anybody could have been in there. Maybe it was empty and they just threw her in a Dumpster behind the funeral home, who knows? That's what they did with the dead cats at the animal hospital I used to work at. People would come in, all upset with their dead cats, and they'd pay like twenty bucks for us to take the bodies. But I only took them as far the Dumpster out back.

Jon hugs me hard and says that Mom's in a better place now. At peace.

Do you really think so?

Of course, Jon says, and then he kisses me lightly on my lips.

I hope she's at peace.

I know she's at peace, he sighs in my ear. I love you so much, he tells me in a soft breath.

I love you too. More than I can say.

Downstairs I hear the front door creak on its hinges. Somehow, Dad's gotten Jackie Shaw to leave.

 

 

Jon Thompson's standing next to my locker. I don't know how to look at him anymore. I'm afraid that he'll guess that I love him. But then I'm afraid that if he's like me, I'm not giving him enough clues to figure it out. This bites the big one.

"Party Saturday," he tells me.

I look just past him. "Where?"

"Debbie Polanski's. Her parents are in Bemidji till Monday." Jon's being nice to me 'cause he's afraid I don't like him. And if I don't like him, Tommy and Rick Foley and everybody else won't like him either. If I weren't in love with him, I'd feel sorry for him. But I am, so I don't.

"Cool," I tell him.

He smiles that smile at me, the one that makes me breathe really fast, and says, "Catch you later."

"'Kay."

I bolt to Dutch class. We only have Dutch at our school 'cause one of our teachers is from South Africa. And it's not really Dutch she speaks; it's Afrikaans. I'm late. Ik ben laat. Like ten minutes laat.

When I get to class, our teacher, Mevrouw Bergsma, says, "Meneer Doyle, wat leuk!" (Mr. Doyle, how nice!)

I sit next to Tommy, who's in his usual position, slumped back with his arms crossed and his legs spread really wide. Like he's pissed off. Mevrouw Bergsma doesn't like us to sit like that, she says it's too aggressive.

"Ik ben fucking bored," he whispers.

"Jammer." (What a shame.)

Mevrouw Bergsma claps her little pink hands and says, "Mevrouw Kooiman ontmoet Mevrouw Kees in het Vondelpark." (Mrs. Kooiman meets Mrs. Kees in Vondel Park.) Mevrouw Bergsma looks at me and says, "Kevin, wat heeft Mevrouw Kees bij zich." Now I'm really lost.

"Well," I say.

"Ja?"

"Mevrouw Kees heeft ..."

"Heeft wat?"

" ... stuff. Some stuff."

She sucks her lips between her teeth. I make her do that a lot. "Did you even read the assignment?"

Nee, ma' am. Mevrouw Shaw komt by met a pecan pie. So I studeert nix. "Yeah."

"Echt? Waar werkt Mevrouw Kees?" (Really? Where does Mrs. Kees work?)

"Nederland?" (Holland?)

The smart kids laugh at me, but I shoot them a look and they shut up fast, not wanting their asses kicked.

Mevrouw Bergsma gives up and moves on to a cheerleader who stinks of Bubble Yum. There are some teachers who think that guys like me and Tommy are cute—endearing in the way thatonly the young can be—that's what my homeroom teacher says. But it's easy to tell that Mevrouw Bergsma just thinks that we're a giant pain in her neck. Once she accused me of loitering in her classroom and impersonating somebody who gave a damn. This was her little joke I guess, but she said it all bitchy and I've never liked her since.

Precise tvee jaheren geleden vandaag was ik thuis. (Exactly two years ago today I was at home.)

 

 

I'm putting cans of Campbell's chunky soup at the bottom of a double bag. So chunky you could eat it with a fork. But use a spoon. You'll want to get every drop. Mrs. Gunderson looks at me and smiles. She's one of the women that called Dad at first, but she gave up without much of a fight, probably 'cause she's divorced and not widowed. She doesn't stop by the house all the time with ties or cuff links. She doesn't pump me for information about him at the supermarket. I feel sorry for her 'cause she had to take in her niece, Laurie Lindstrom, after Laurie's parents were killed up north. And I feel a little guilty 'cause I'm glad that her and my dad didn't get together. Not because of her, but 'cause Laurie is so very uncool.

Mrs. Gunderson winks and says, "I never have to worry about anything getting broken when you bag, Kevin. You take good care of me."

My boss doesn't want me to double-bag, but I like Mrs. Gunderson. She's always really nice to me. "No sweat," I tell her.

"How are you getting on at school now that you're a big senior?"

I mumble, "Okay."

"Have you made any plans for after graduation?"

"Going to the U, I guess."

She sighs. "My alma mater. So you're going to be a Golden Gopher, good for you. Are you going to live on campus?" Campus is maybe twenty blocks at the most from my house.

"No, ma'am." I'm about to say something else but I can tell by the look on her face that she's back at college, maybe with aboyfriend, maybe at a party. She's remembering something she hasn't thought about in a long time. When she snaps out of it, she blushes.

"You take care of yourself, young man," she says as she steers her cart toward the doors.

Next in line are three girls from school, all giggling and whispering. I know them from keggers and I got high with one of them once.

"Hiya, Kevin," the shortest one says. She has feathered hair like Farrah Fawcett-Majors and pink lipstick the same color as her nails. Her friends snigger, and one of them turns bright red like a stoplight.

"Hey," I say. They're buying two packs of Bubble Yum so there's nothing to bag. I can tell they're checking me out, so I run a hand through my hair 'cause I know I'm a fox.

"So," the little one says to me, "you going to Debbie Polanski's on Saturday?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

Lorraine, the checker, looks at me and rolls her eyes.

Feathered Hair says, "Allison was hoping you were."

The tallest one, with straight blond hair parted down the middle and a beet-red face, says, "Was not, shut up!"

They run out of the store, arguing and laughing, and Lorraine gives me a look. "Allison's looking forward to Saturday, I bet."

So am I. Jon Thompson will be there.

"The way these girls flirt with you, it's a wonder you can fit your head through the doorway."

I don't know what she means, so I say, "Yeah."

 

 

Floyd Anderson's scraping his sidewalk clear to the marrow when Tommy blub-blub-blubs up in his Challenger to pick me up for Debbie Polanski's party. For Mrs. Bartochevitz's sake, he honks twice, which gives Floyd a start, and his pyramid falls off his head and into a snowbank.

When I open the front door a blast of cold air hits me hard and I wheeze. It's supposed to get down between twenty andthirty below tonight and Dad's made me promise to call him if Tommy's car won't start. He pays attention to where I go and what I do since Mom died.

I have to sit in the back; Rick Foley's riding shotgun next to Tommy. "Hey, man," Rick Foley says, so I say, "Hey, man."

I see Tommy look at me in the rearview mirror. He nods and says, "Hey, man."

I say, "Hey, man."

And we're off, three men heading to Debbie Polanski's house, which turns out to be maybe all of four blocks from my own.

As soon as we're inside I see Allison and her friends. They see me too and scream and turn their heads. There's this cloud of cigarette and pot smoke that hurts my eyes and I'm afraid that I'm gonna reek like nothing else when I get home and Dad'll notice. They're blasting Aerosmith and everybody has to shout. Tommy yells in my ear. He tells me to drink the punch, not the beer, so I do.

It's one big plastic cup later and I'm already buzzed.

Two cups later and I'm drunk.

Three cups later and I've never been so smashed in my entire life.

Rick Foley finds me leaning against a wall, staring into my cup, trying not to fall over. He goes, "Whoa, man, you shit-faced?"

I just smile and nod at him. You know, he's kinda foxy, I never noticed before. I'm afraid to say anything 'cause I know I'll sound really blitzed. Ja, Ik ben shit-faced.

Rick Foley shouts over at Tommy, who's talking to Beth, who's wearing a tube top in the middle of January. You can see her nips from here. Beth used to go to Northeast, but now she goes to someplace near the U for kids who can't hack regular school. Rick Foley barely gets out, "Hey, man, Kevin's shit-faced," before he passes out, face first, on the floor in front of me. He's just lies there, maybe he's dead, I can't tell. I laugh as I step over him on my way to get some more punch.

"Man, Foley's wasted." This is Jon Thompson shouting at me. He's pointing at Rick Foley's body, right behind us. I get all warm. Jon Thompson! You're here! I love you! Do you love me?

"I know," I say and giggle again. Jon snickers too and I want to touch him really bad.

Now we're laughing so hard that we're not making any noise at all. We just, like, shake, and I'm kinda freaking 'cause I think I might be suffocating. I can't tell if I'm taking any air in or breathing any out. How long have I gone without breathing?

Jon finally makes sounds like "Ha, ha, ha" but then he grabs his stomach and pukes. Now the music stops and people are pointing at him, gagging and laughing at the same time. Oooh, gross, they all seem to say. I'm still laughing, but not 'cause Jon threw up. I'm still cracking up about Rick Foley.

Jon just stares at his own vomit, maybe a foot away from Rick Foley's head, and I can tell that he's not really sure if it came out of him. He sways as he looks at it, his mouth wide open. He looks up at me and I'm laughing really bust not at him, only I can't tell him that, 'cause I can't breathe. Next he looks at the people around us.

Somebody says, "Hey, Thompson, why don't you blow chow at your own house?"

He yells, "Shut up!"

I want to help, but my shoulders are jiggling and I think I might die laughing.

Some guy, who looks like he's thirty, shouts at Jon. "Don't drink with the big boys if you can't handle it, weak tit."

Jon screams, "Shut the hell up." He staggers past the gawkers and toward what I can only hope is the John.

I want to stop laughing but I can't and I notice Allison standing next to me. Her eyelids are heavy and her head's shaking, the way Mom-Mom's always did on account of the palsy.

She says to me like I just said something. "What?"

But I can't talk; I just gasp for air. Look at Rick Foley, I want to say. He's so funny

"Do you have a girlfriend?" slurs out of Allison's mouth, and then her eyes close.

She's funny too. Knock, knock, anybody home? God, I need oxygen.

Finally my convulsions stop. I leave Allison standing where sheis, like a bobblehead, and I work my way in what I think is the direction Jon's gone. I find a hallway and open the first door I see. Tommy's on top of Beth, only her tube top is off, and he's squeezing her little boobs.

"Sorry," I mutter, but they don't hear me, she's like moaning, and Tommy's grunting.

A second door and I stare at summer clothes stacked on shelves.

A third door and there's Jon on all fours, his head over the toilet.

"You poor bastard," I say, or maybe I only think it, I'm so drunk I can't tell.

He groans and his eyes are watering.

I kneel down beside him. I don't know what I'm doing so I put a hand on his ass. He's so out of it he doesn't notice.

"You okay?" I think I whisper, but he just keeps groaning, like he's got the dry heaves. I grab a cheek and squeeze it. It's round and it's firm and it feels like heaven. Oh, my God, I'm feeling Jon's ass!

He barfs nothing and I put my hands around his waist now, working my way up his chest. His stomach shudders under my fingers and when my hands reach his nipples I stroke them till they get hard. All the time I bite his ass through his jeans. Man, I can't believe I'm doing this. I am sooo fucked up. We fall over. I know this 'cause I feel the cold tiles of the floor on my skin.

I think I passed out for a little bit. Jon's curled up next to the bowl when I wake up. He's got all his clothes on, and I think about taking them off. I think, I'm stronger than he is. I can kick his ass. Maybe he's just waiting for me to do him. Shit. I am soooo fucked up. Gotta find Tommy and get home.

I leave Jon next to the toilet and I stumble over bodies in the hallway. I can't find Tommy. Dad'll be worried; he worries a lot since Mom died. Gotta get home. What time is it? A coat. I need a coat. And a hat. And gloves. A pile of the stuff is near the door and I can't tell what's mine. So I put on what I can, 'cause I know it's gonna be a motherfucker outside.

I open the front door and it's a thousand knives stabbing me at once. Isn't that from a book or a poem that Fey Hayes madeus read? Shit. Gotta get home. Only four blocks away, but I'm lost. I don't recognize a goddamn thing.

Okay, I know it's cold. 1 get it. I know it's cold enough to kill me, colder than when Mom hit the ice two years ago. Have to find shelter. There's an apartment building. Gotta get in. Lobby door's unlocked. I lay down on the floor, right by the mailboxes. Can sleep in lobby. No, no good. Somebody will find me and throw me outside and I'll freeze to death and I won't even know that I'm freezing to death. Can't do that to Dad. He's already lost Mom; he can't lose me too. I'm sorry, Dad. Jon, I love you. I love you so much.

I'm outside and I'm moving my feet. They make a crunch noise in the snow, like I'm walking on Styrofoam. I walk past what I think is my house. I turn around and look at it closer. It's small and covered in icicles and there is a duplex on one side and a fourplex on the other. Oh, God! It's my house! I'm safe! Somehow I make it up the steps and to the front door. I struggle with the key. Finally the bolt moves and I'm in, I feel the temperature soar. I hear a voice—maybe mine—say, "Thank God. Thank God."

 

 

I open my eyes. I'm in my own bed; I'm in my own house, the one that used to smell like lemons. My head's royally fucked and I look at my feet, my hiking boots still on. My jeans still on. My flannel shirt still on. I don't remember much about last night, but what I do makes me feel even worse. If that's possible.

From the hallway I hear: "Kevin?"

It's Dad. I throw a blanket over me. "Yeah," I croak.

"Can I come in?"

I check to make sure I'm covered. "Yeah."

From the other side of the door he leans in. "How are you?"

I lie. "Okay ... kind of tired."

"You got in awful late."

"Sorry. Lost track of time."

He looks at me, a little smirk on his face. "Did you want to go to mass today?"

I frown. "Uh, no." We never go to mass. Mom always had to go by herself. Dad tried to go after she died, but it didn't last too long.

Dad says, "You were thanking God quite a bit last night. I listened at your door for a while and counted each time you said 'Thank God.' I stopped counting at thirty and went back to bed."

Fuck a duck. "Well ..."

"Why did you thank God thirty times?"

For getting me home alive. "I ... I was grateful."

"What for?"

I don't say a thing; I know he's not buying it. The smirk's gone, replaced by a look that scares me.

He says, "Don't you ever do that to me again. Got it?"

I close my eyes. "Yes, sir."

He shakes his head and says, "You get away with a hell of a lot, Kevin. I let you get away with a lot 'cause we lost your mother. Your friends let you get away with a lot 'cause you're a good-looking kind. I know what that's like; I was young and handsome myself once. I know that people will forgive you almost anything if they like looking at you."

He stops and slaps the door with his hand, hard. He breathes in and out and then he says, "But you can't pull this crap with me; I'm your father. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good."

I cry, or at least make crying noises. There's no tears, 'cause I'm so hungover. I say, "I'm sorry."

He says, "It's okay. Just don't—"

But he doesn't finish 'cause I'm really sobbing; big old honking boo-hoos that make me shake. I'm sick 'cause I've had too much to drink and because I'm in love with a boy.

Dad says, like he's not sure he really wants to know, "Kevin, what's the matter?"

I say, 'cause he doesn't really want to know, "Nothing, I'm sorry."

He wasn't expecting this. He backs off, into the hallway. "Sleep it off," he grunts.

I hug a pillow; I tell Jon that I'm sorry, it wasn't supposed to happen that way. But part of me doesn't regret it. No matter what happens, my hands touched him, felt him, and nothing can take that away from me. There's always gonna be this one moment in time where I had my arms around him. For all eternity there's a moment when my fingers played with his nips, when my teeth bit into his ass. So we were both too drunk to know what I was doing. How else could it have happened?

I crawl out of my room every few hours for the John or the kitchen to try to rehydrate. Dad just watches TV; he doesn't call me down for lunch or dinner.

It's after midnight when I wake up. I'm starting to feel a little less miserable. I stand and head to the hallway when I stop and turn toward the bedroom window. Across the street, sitting on his front step, is Floyd Anderson. He rocks back and forth, the pyramid on top of him. Maybe he saw me stagger home last night and he's waiting for the hearse to come and haul my body away. Maybe he helped me inside. Yeah, maybe it was him who held me up while I put the key in the lock. Or maybe he was asleep in his bed, his pyramid next to him on the mattress, where his wife used to be.

THE YEAR OF ICE. Copyright © 2002 by Brian Malloy. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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Reading Group Guide

It is 1978 in the Twin Cities, and Kevin Doyle, a high school senior, is a marginal student in love with keggers, rock and roll, and-unbeknownst to anyone else-a boy in his class with thick eyelashes and a bad attitude. His mother Eileen died two years earlier when her car plunged into the icy waters of the Mississippi River, and since then Kevin's relationship with his father Patrick has become increasingly distant. As lonely women vie for his father's attention, Kevin discovers Patrick's own closely guarded secret: he had planned to abandon his family for another woman. More disturbingly, his mother's death may well have been a suicide, not an accident.

Complicating the family dynamic is the constant meddling of Kevin's outspoken Aunt Nora-who will never forgive Patrick for Eileen's death-along with Patrick's inability to stay single for very long. His loyalties divided between his father and his aunt, between his internal reality and his public persona, Kevin is forced to reevaluate his notions of family and love as painful truths emerge about both.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 29 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2008

    Ice Ice Baby!

    Ten pages into this book, I was already in love with it. Unlike the previous book I had just read ''Old School' -- blah!', 'The Year of Ice' had substance. The narrator, Kevin, an 18-year-old, came to life immediately. He enjoyed dark humor and sarcasm -- two of my favorite traits! -- and it was readily evident from the 'get-go.' His observations throughout the book 'in thought and verbalized' felt so real. He would think one thing, but say another. The entire book felt like watching a movie made from a book by Bret Easton Ellis -- 'American Psycho' and 'Rules of Attraction' -- because of the detail of observation. The writer, Brian Malloy, captured the 70s to a 'T' and went into painful -- yet humorous -- detail about what it feels like as a teenager and feeling like you're the only one who has feelings for the same sex.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2013

    I agree with most of the other reviews here in that the characte

    I agree with most of the other reviews here in that the characters in this book, especially Kevin Doyle, are very well drawn. This is the author’s strength, and it is a mighty one. Kevin is very much a product of his surroundings, both in terms of the decade in which we find him and the familial/social predicaments he is dealing with. At the same time, despite all of that, he is also very much an eighteen-year-old-boy (and all the obnoxious and endearing qualities that come with that). Adding to the mix, we get to know him also as an outsider in an insider’s body, and there we have the protagonist’s primary conflict. Beyond Kevin, every other character in the book also rang true. I could never quite peg any of them as a stereotype because the author would quickly fill him/her out in unexpected (but true) ways. Reading the book is like spending time with friends and family: you might like them, you might not like them, but you find yourself returning for their company all the same.

    Others here have also pointed out that the ending seemed rush, and I must agree with that too. I was surprised to turn the page and see that the story was over, not just the chapter (I read the ebook, so it’s easier not to see the end coming). In some ways, the ending did not take me where I wanted to go, where I thought I needed to go. Reflecting on the story as a whole, however, I’m not sure I needed what I thought I did. I was okay with the circumstances Kevin was left in. I think we are given enough about him to imagine what his future likely holds. My main problem with the ending (and it’s minor) is the inclusion of Aunt Nora in the last scene. It felt a little forced. I’m just not sure she would have been there, or at least would not have come to being there so easily. I wonder if Kevin had more to learn from a character whose behavior had alienated her from polite company. Seeing that, even seeing perhaps how he helped her overcome it and ultimately find her place there in the final scene, might have been a good lesson for Kevin to learn. But, given the chance, all readers would probably rewrite the end of every book.

    My two biggest criticisms:

    What’s the deal with all the typos? Is that only in the ebook? I hope so. They were plentiful and obvious. I encourage other readers to resolve to move past them. They are not indicative of the storytelling quality. It’s merely poor copy editing. There is a very nicely told story riding atop them.

    All the way through it, I wished I had more sense of setting. It was cold, I got that, but I was left to my own imagination when it came to the neighborhoods and school and town and cars, etc. I think many authors pile on too much descriptive detail and mistake it for story, so I respect that Malloy didn’t do that here. I also realize that eighteen-year-old Kevin might not have been naturally predisposed to remarking on the aesthetics of his environment much – this same place he has lived all his life, this place that probably seems very dull to him – but I still would have liked even just minor nudges toward a “correct” way of imagining things, especially since the book is set in 1978. Cars and neighborhoods and grocery stores and houses were very different back then, and I didn’t need a full description of any of them but even just a casual reference to one aspect (the antenna coming up from the hood of the car, the short shelves in the grocery store that the average adult could see over, shag carpeting in the house) would have gone a long way toward making me feel at home in Kevin’s world. Am I right that it is only after Kevin’s family home is under new ownership that we are told there is a screened in porch on the front of it? All the talk of how his mother sat out there watching snow fall, all the widows and guests and Kevin himself coming and going through that house for 200 pages, but it is only after he doesn’t live there anymore are we told there’s a screened in front porch on the front? (“…they’ve rescreened the porch and replaced the rotted floorboards.”) And the same revelation could have been made for any other setting. We might have learned on page 200 that the exterior walls of the Red Owl were actually covered in feathers; we’d been given no hint prior that they weren’t. Those little “failures” of setting were bothersome to me.

    Overall, however, a wonderful debut novel, full of characters I got to know like family. I will read more of Malloy’s work in the future. (I notice a lapse of time since the third novel. What gives? Keep writing, man.)

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  • Posted May 26, 2013

    A Year of Ice introduces us to 18 year old high school senior, K

    A Year of Ice introduces us to 18 year old high school senior, Kevin Doyle, a young man attempting to come to terms with his sexuality while trying to maintain his alpha male status amongst his friends. Through Kevin, we are introduced to his widowed father, his caustic Aunt Nora, his best friend Tommy and his eccentric neighbor Floyd Anderson. The characters, including Kevin, are far from perfect. Some are downright despicable. But you still find yourself rooting for each of them. I definitely recommend this book for anyone who remembers what it was like to come into your own.

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  • Posted April 6, 2013

    Engaging story of coming-of-age

    And a study of people who can surprise you. The development of characters here is strong, and people you want to hate will make you rethink that, as well as those you think you want to love. It's nice to read a story about gay people whose identity is not solely sex nor the pursuit of it. Well done.

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  • Posted June 9, 2011

    Good+read

    It+must+have+to+do+with+the+way+the+text+is+uploaded+to+a+computer+because+there+is+no+way+this+book+would++get+past+an+editor+in+this+condition%2C+but+there+are+a+lot+of+spelling+errors+and+it+gets+a+little+distracting.+Otherwise+a+good+book.

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  • Posted January 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Will Surprise and Move You.

    The Year of Ice<BR/>By: Brian Malloy<BR/><BR/>¿ In loving memory of my brother, Thomas Michael Malloy, a stand up guy. ¿The book The Year of Ice is a book that has feelings and emotions throughout its path. Kevin the narrator of this book summarizes his moms death and deals with that throughout the rest of his high school career. Kevin has a crush on one of the hottest person in his high school, and doesn¿t know how to approach that special one. The book has a lot of chaos going on; conflict between his dad and his aunt Nora. This 262 page book gives us advice of how to handle problems in life. All the humor and characters are revealed in every page throughout the novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2007

    ive never seen the 70's like this!

    by looking at the title you'd think it was actually about a year long winter- nothing to special- science fiction if anything. B ut by the time i got to page six- i saw the true nature of this story. one with so much suspence and anxiety- it had me getting giddy. despite an overuse of swear words this book is a must read- especailly for teens- not much has really changed from the 70's til now- for highschool student anyway. Kevin Doyle is a witty character with seemingly justified views about his life so far- and the fact that he is the big man on campus- the guy that all the girls want and most of the guys are afraid of AND one of possibly 6 guy men (that he knows of) in the state only makes the intensity of this story more desireable. If your bored pick this book up!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2006

    A New Yorker

    This is one of the greatest and most insightful books that have passed my hands within the past year. It has everything from emotion to mystery. I could not put it down and finished it within six hours.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2006

    Couldn't put it down...

    EXCELLENT!!!! I picked up this book and i finished it from front to back in one sitting. If you can't find a movie or anything on T.V., this is the thing to do. Pick it up and read, because this book is as close as you're going to get to any movie or television show!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2005

    It was amazing

    I loved this book so much. When I first read it I couldnt put it down. Now I have read it over and over again and it just doesnt get old. It has such a real feeling about it and you can feel what this boy is actually feeling. I cried and laughed when reading it and it has become one of my favorites. You must read it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2005

    Boy could I relate!

    I read this wonderful novel In almost one sitting. I attended high school in '78 so everything from the references to Peter Frampton, Farrah Fawcett hairdos, and 'keggers' I't was like I was reliving my teen age years! At first I was disappointed In the ending but then realized that life Isn't always tied up in a little bow! It took me all of 13 years after high school before I was intimate with a man!! I sincerely hope Mr. Malloy writes a sequel to this extraordinary book. Kevin deserves some closure and....SO DO I!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2005

    It touched my soul

    It touched my soul and reminded me how lucky I am to be the age I am in the time I am in. I felt as if I was walking down Hennepin Avenue and unable to go in the bars myself, in fact in 1999 that was me in New York, but I was much more lucky than 'Kevin'. A fantastic book that shows you the psychological turmoil denying ones self can bring upon the soul.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2003

    I laughed, I cried

    This novel is so damned funny. Read it as soon as possible. If you enjoy quirky families, the irish, novels where everyone isn't wealthy (no one is wealthy), minneapolis, the 1970s, remembering what being a teenager was really like, snowflakes that stay on your nose and eyelashes or all or none of the above, you will enjoy this story. If you are straight, let this be the first novel with a gay theme you buy. You'll get a clue, if you have not had one in the past, about what hiding this truth was like for the gay people you know and love. Humane, human, heartfelt and humorous.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2003

    Touching & Close to Home...

    I enjoyed this book so much because I can relate to it. Dealing with being gay is tough for anyone who is struggling on trying to come out. This is just one of the problems that Kevin, the main character, has to face. People can relate to him and I feel that Brian Malloy has grasped that aspect. It's touching, moving and above all else gripping. The humor adds a spark to the plot. If you are looking for a certain book to get your attention, this is it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2003

    engrossing

    Very nicely paced, start to finish. Terrific insights into the mind of a fomenting closeted teen. Believable emotional confrontations. I look forward to more books by this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2002

    I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!

    This is one of the best books about coming of age I have ever read. It perfectly captures what it is like to be 18 years old and coming to grips with your sexuality, while dealing with just being a teenager, doing normal teenage stuff. The main character, Kevin, has a hysterically sardonic wit, that carries him through the challenges of his home life and his quest to grow up. It is refreshing to read a book about a gay character, where the author does not need to rely on sex to move the story along. I would have loved to see this story go on for another 200 pages!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2002

    Leaves you wanting more...

    I found THE YEAR OF ICE impossible to put down. The quiet life of Malloy's main character, Kevin, is so elegantly detailed and intricately woven, you'll be sad to see his year end at the finale of the book. Malloy shows great promise -- and here's hoping we see more of what lies ahead for Kevin in future installments.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2002

    This book stunned me...

    What at first appeared to be a well written, fast-reading, first-person coming-of-age story told by a Minneapolis teenager stunned me when, about 30 pages in, I realized that I was deeply involved in a study of alienation, shame, family rage, abandonment, and love. This book sneaks up on you. But don't let the dark sound of all that scare you away. The protagonist, Kevin Doyle, has that rare, inexplicable quality that alchemizes painful experiences into a generosity of soul that lights up and rounds out the best and the worst characters in this unblinking novel. And its author, Brian Malloy, has an irreverent sense of humor that slices through any moment that threatens to take itself too seriously. What I'm still pondering, though, is the sheer literary power that comes from Malloy's handling of his protagonist's gayness. This book isn't about being gay, although Kevin's gayness is at least as important to the story as any brand of sexual inclination is to any story of teenagers. But it brings to this work a relentless intensifying of the character's sense of alienation. If an author had wanted only to examine alienation, he couldn't have chosen a more effective life situation than that of Kevin Dole. It's through the magic of Malloy's talent that Kevin's sexual preference lets any feeling reader experience and better understand alienation--whatever its source.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2002

    A TRIUMPH!

    How refreshing it is to read a story told with such intimacy. Wonderful!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2002

    This tale needs a sequel....

    I found The Year of Ice to be a great coming of age tale, filled with humor and pain, a plain old growing up story. An excellent read, not too demanding yet thoroughly enjoyable. The gay story line is well woven into this tale and not overwhelming. We need to know where Kevin's life goes from here.

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