THE ICE GARDEN

WINNER 2015 GOLD MEDAL, INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS REGIONAL AWARDS

FROM COUNTRY ROADS MAGAZINE: I grew up with a seriously mentally ill parent. Either Moira Crone did too or she has the most elegant, finely tuned sensitivity this side of mind-reading because she describes it with the deadly accuracy of a sharpshooter. Several times I paused in my reading to take a deep breath and look out the window when a scene, a line, an image had sunk home with an understated ferocity that sent me back twenty years. To live, especially as a child, with the uncertainty that such a situation engenders is akin to siege warfare: trapped in a world you know is not normal, not right, but you can’t say how, and at any moment the cannons may fire and what little you’ve built may crash down and maybe—probably—you along with it. I’ve tried to write that feeling and come close, but Crone lands it dead center: “‘What do you know? You are just a child.’ What a thing to call me.”

FROM IMAGE JOURNAL: As the narrative speeds toward its tragic conclusion, we are pulled into Claire’s defining moments, trapped with her, in a situation where difficult choices quickly become only options. With familiar Southern themes and settings overlaid in lurid, wintry imagery, The Ice Garden is steeped in intriguing, disconsolate juxtapositions that, at times, reminds of Ethan Frome and Hawthorne. Well worth the read.

FROM THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE: The language and characters in author Moira Crone’s latest book burn with an intensity that won’t soon be forgotten….

Set in the 1960s South before the civil rights movement and written in prose as stark as it is seductive, “The Ice Garden” is a story about how love can blind and mental illness can cripple. It’s the story, told in the first person, of 10-year-old Claire, who adores her new baby sister, Sweetie, and quickly realizes her mother, who “had no smile for any of us,” doesn’t feel the same.

The novel, Crone told North Carolina Public Radio, was her “contribution to the genre of dangerous childhoods” and, in part, modeled after her own growing up in North Carolina at roughly the same time as Claire. People then were trapped in many situations, Crone said, and so are her characters, which she brings to palpable life.

Poignant, haunting misery — and hope! — run throughout this spellbinding novel, which at times is monstrous, but never maudlin, as it shows how mental illness can so insidiously affect a family.

The more Claire’s mother and father struggle and fall apart, the more heartbreakingly vibrant Claire becomes. Sweetie, Sidney and Claire’s steadfast Aunt C. are equally appealing, providing suspense and observations about class, gender and race issues that are as much a part of life today as Crone’s fictionalized Fayton County….

“The Ice Garden” reminds about the consequences of choices and is a most winning choice overall.

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Listen to Interview on North Carolina Public Radio with Frank Stasio, “The State of Things.”

“One of our best American writers, Moira Crone has given us her finest book yet, a story as dazzling and dangerous as ice… THE ICE GARDEN is a heart stopper.  This may just be the most haunting and memorable novel you will ever read.—–LEE  SMITH, author of  GUESTS ON EARTH, FAIR AND TENDER LADIES, FAMILY LINEN, ORAL HISTORY, and others.

Moira Crone’s THE ICE GARDEN is a rare book. Claire’s story will break your heart over and over again in the way Thomas Hardy’s protagonists’ stories so often do, but you will know her in her own time and place, completely. The imagination that created her is a formidable imagination. She is so beautifully crafted that there is not an extraneous vein in this story. I love this story in the way I love the stories of Ron Rash, Wiley Cash, Bobby Ann Mason, Ellen Gilchrist and Colm Toibin. Moira Crone knows the heart turned against itself as well as the heart steeled in the possibility of dreams. And, she neglects neither to get at a story that is complete and moving, haunting and inspiring, investigative and healing. It is one of the best books of the year and it makes me hope that Crone is well into the writing of another story as powerful as this one is.  DARRELL BOURQUE, POET LAUREATE, LOUISIANA

 

Ten year old Claire McKenzie is the narrator of this wonderful novel, and in her all too soon passage into adulthood is at the core of this great hearted but never sentimental book.  Moira Crone is an immensely talented writer and all of her gifts are on display in THE ICE GARDEN. —–RON RASH, Author of
SERENA, ONE FOOT IN EDEN, SOMETHING RICH AND STRANGE.

The Ice Garden by Moira Crone is an engaging, captivating novel that shows how a child living with two parents can still be an orphan. Claire, the reliable narrator, reminds me of Frankie in The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers. So often we forget that children on the cusp of young adulthood have ears, eyes, and feelings. The Ice Garden takes us into a dark world where the source of Claire’s misery—her mentally ill mother—is unable to see the harm she is doing to her daughters, and where Claire’s father—blinded by love for his wife—is unavailable to Claire or her baby sister, the delightful Sweetie. Crone also gives us an unusual portrait in Sidney, the “maid” employed by this family in the early 60s. Sidney will not be persuaded to come to work when her own family needs her. She loves strongly and expresses her feelings vividly, and she is the perfect counterpoint for Claire. I cherish certain lines: “…a baby in a black dress was the saddest thing there could be.” And, in a perfect description of older women in small Southern towns: “All those widows and old maids…knew how to get the florist to work, how to find musicians in a federal disaster area.” This is a novel I will read again, perhaps more slowly next time; my first reading was swift, compelled by my desire to know the outcome. I recommend this book without reservation.

ANNA JEAN MAYHEW, author of DRY GRASS OF AUGUST.

 The pages fly by in Moira Crone’s powerful new novel that, despite its title, burns with a glowing white heat. A young girl, Claire McKenzie, narrates her life with a mother trapped in the suffocating culture of the South in the sixties, a father too dazzled by his wife to notice his daughter, and the brand-new sister she adores. Moira Crone’s ability to capture feeling in words and to make those words sing is remarkable and memorable. I read THE ICE GARDEN straight through, shocked, riveted, and in awe.—-KELLY CHERRY, former Poet Laureate of Virginia, author of A Kind Of Dream.