Alice Hoffman,
The Ice Queen
(Time Warner, 2005)

The first several minutes of the audiobook version of Alice Hoffman's The Ice Queen made me feel horrible, a feeling that stayed with me for most of the novel. A young, single mother heads out to celebrate her 30th birthday with friends. Her 8-year-old daughter begs her to stay home. When she realizes she won't get her way, the girl wishes her mom would just die and never come back. This is the type of mean-spirited, but not truly meant, wish that a lot of kids might make at that age. Unfortunately, when her mother dies in an accident and never does come back, the girl takes it to heart that she caused her mother's death.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this little girl grows up quiet and very preoccupied by death. She has a grim outlook and prefers the morose to the "happily ever after" view of life. Over the years, she has made a handful of other damaging wishes -- each of which comes true and reinforces her belief that she has to be careful what she wishes. One day, after making one of her wishes, she is struck by lightning. The strike doesn't kill her. But it does change her. She no longer sees the color red. She always feels cold from the inside. Yet, she discovers that she can indeed experience passion -- a new emotion for her.

She joins a lightning strike survivor group and hears of another survivor, Lazarus Jones, who, according to the stories, was dead for 40 minutes, then simply got up and walked out of the hospital. She is not initially sure why she searches Lazarus out. But after they meet, they begin a passionate love affair and begin to learn secrets about each other. Can this man thaw the Ice Queen's heart?

The audiobook is on five CDs and is read by Nancy Travis, best known from the Three Men & a Baby films and, more recently, the TV shows Becker and Almost Perfect. I thought she did quite well with her narration of this first-person novel. She reads with a melancholic tone that extols what a downer this book really is.

The Ice Queen is the first novel of Alice Hoffman's that I've come across. I understand that Practical Magic, Turtle Moon and Here on Earth were bestsellers. I vaguely remember the movie Practical Magic, but that is because of Sandra Bullock, not Alice Hoffman. I'm not familiar with the other books, so I'm not sure how The Ice Queen compares.

This novel has a positive message -- live life to its fullest because you never know when it will end -- wrapped in a negative presentation. The Ice Queen harps on life as sadness, life as unfulfilling, life as pain. Yet, at some point, I recall a character stating something to the effect that "the best way to prepare for death is to live." Live your life. Follow your dreams. The unexpected happens all the time. You don't know when your life will be over. So, if you get motivated through negative vibes, this novel just might be for you. In the end, despite the lightning, I just felt drained of all energy and emotions.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 3 September 2005

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