“A MAJESTIC RECONCILIATION STORY.”
— Publishers Weekly
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Named one of BBC Culture’s “Ten Books to Read in December”
Named an Amazon “Best Book of the Month, December 2017”Named a Southern Living “Great New Book to Read Over Winter Break”
From a writer who’s been praised for her “intelligence, heart, wit” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls), The Ice House is the picaresque, heartrending tale of a man on the verge of losing his livelihood and of losing forever his relationship with his only son.
Johnny MacKinnon might be on the verge of losing it all. The ice factory he married into, which he’s run for decades, is facing devastating OSHA fines following a mysterious accident and may have to close. The only hope for Johnny’s livelihood is that someone in the community saw something, but no one seems to be coming forward. He hasn’t spoken to his son Corran back in Scotland since Corran’s heroin addiction finally drove Johnny to the breaking point. And now, after a collapse on the factory floor, it appears Johnny may have a brain tumor. Johnny’s been ordered to take it easy, but in some ways, he thinks, what’s left to lose? This may be his last chance to bridge the gap with Corran—and to have any sort of relationship with the baby granddaughter he’s never met. Witty and heartbreaking by turns, The Ice House is a vibrant portrait of multifaceted, exquisitely human characters that readers will not soon forget. It firmly establishes Laura Lee Smith as a gifted voice in American fiction.
THE ICE HOUSE is a Fall 2017 Okra Pick!
Praise for THE ICE HOUSE…
“The Ice House is both serious and lively, leavened by humour, filled with distinctive characters. Smith moves fluidly between Florida and Scotland, the present and the past, deftly evoking the complicated dance of distance and reconciliation.” — BBC Culture, “Ten Books to Read in December.”
“Laura Lee Smith’s highly anticipated follow-up to her debut, Heart of Palm, is a story about a man named Johnny MacKinnon who’s estranged from his son, has never seen his granddaughter, may have a brain tumor, and is losing the family business, an ice factory he’s been in charge of for years. That’s not the end of his story, though; that’s the beginning.” — Southern Living, “Great New Books to Read Over Winter Break.”
“Smith weaves (the characters’) stories expertly, moving from Jacksonville to Scotland and back, from another disaster to a laugh-out-loud moment. Her tenderness toward her characters and subtle understanding of class differences in American society are reminiscent of such novelists as Richard Russo and Jennifer Egan, but this heartbreaking, heartwarming novel is an original.” — Tampa Bay Times.
“A spirited cast makes up the foundation of Smith’s delicately spun story of family, loyalty, and the difficult choices people must make when forgiving someone…Peppering the story with affecting interludes that trace the evolution of Johnny and Corran’s relationship, Smith (Heart of Palm) majestically captures the urgency of reconnecting with a loved one when time seems to be quickly slipping away. ” — Publishers Weekly.
“The Ice House is a tour de force that sweeps readers into a symphony of powerfully drawn characters, all of whom have been wounded in ways that both cripple and embolden them. This novel is an intercontinental family saga and an exploration of blue-collar life, but at its core it’s a very a good novel that asks us to consider the lengths we’ll go to in order to save the things that matter most: a company, a loved one, ourselves.” —Wiley Cash, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Last Ballad, A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy.
“The Ice House offers all the pleasures of the novel—robust characters we worry about and root for, a story that deepens and intrigues, language that charms and surprises, and even some rare and welcome humor. It does all this in a setting unusual to a novel—the world of work, in this case, a family ice making business in Florida. How does Laura Lee Smith keep that small, cold world so large and ardent hearted? The Ice House is a marvel of a novel.” — Beth Ann Fennelly, Novelist, Essayist, and Poet Laureate of Mississippi
“Laura Lee Smith continues to impress with her second novel, The Ice House. It’s a lovely story full of heart and wry humor that manages to convey life in all its rich, messy, tragic wonder. Johnny MacKinnon has it good but seems to be on the verge of losing it all. The ice company he runs in Florida is in trouble with OSHA, and then he discovers that he may have a brain tumor. While he is supposed to be taking it easy as he waits to find out the diagnosis, Johnny decides he must try to mend his estranged relationship with his son in Scotland and with the granddaughter he’s never met. The result is a touching, funny, heartbreaking ride you won’t soon forget.”— Cody Morrison, Square Books, Oxford, MS
“While this is a beautiful character-driven novel, the settings are also vividly realized, from the run-down neighborhood of Jacksonville that houses the factory to the remote town in the Scottish Highlands that Corran has retreated to in an attempt to ward off his cravings for heroin.” Indie Picks Magazine
“Smith has a flair for creating three-dimensional characters who are flawed and heroic in the small ways that most of us are, and while her literary milieu is more chamber music than symphony, she is able to rivet the reader for more than 400 pages, which is no wee accomplishment.” BookPage
“Smith is truly gifted at crafting multifaceted, deeply human characters—this was frequently noted in the reviews for Heart of Palm and is equally true for her new book. She effortlessly weaves together Ice’s multiple perspectives into a rich, moving, and often funny portrait of Johnny, Pauline, and their community. The complex dynamics and vibrant, exquisitely flawed personalities of the characters in this novel make for an immensely compelling read.” 7Switch
“Love the cover! Screams Florida. Laura Lee Smith wowed us with her first novel HEART OF PALM. I fell head over heels for that one. Have been eagerly awaiting this new novel. It was worth the wait.” Veteran book blogger “Maurice On Books.”
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20 thoughts on “THE ICE HOUSE (Grove Press, 2017)”
This book transported me back to the area where I lived for 25 years before returning to Connecticut. Every description, from the foliage, heat, water in the Intracoastal, etc.l is spot on. I loved the Bravo family and they will be with me for a very long time. Thank you Ms. Smith for an unforgettable read. I hope this will only be the first of many books you will write. You have an amazing talent.
Thank you for your generous comments. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
Heart of Palm
I love reading stories about places I have been to. I enjoyed Wendy Wax’s Florida and Dorothea Benton Frank’s Charleston. Yours did not follow their romantic bend and was so totally, frightening realistic. Your characters were intensely real and alive to the point that we could relate a little bit and see our own personality flaws in one character or another (and it wasn’t pretty). The characters were brutally honest characters that you could see into their souls and find their vulnerability. Great book! I hope you continue to write books about Florida. I especially love reading about Henry Flagler and Henry Plant and their era, and since you taught at Flagler’s college you would have a great background for writing many books.
Thank you, Carolyn, so happy to read your comments. Best to you.
amazing read! thank you so much for putting pen to paper! very courageous and haunting
Thanks for your note! It means a great deal.
Loved the book! Until I moved to Florida two years ago, I lived in Philadelphia where, in 1950, the Society Hill neighborhood began a process called “gentrification.” To this day, older areas are still being revitalized but, of course, that means change and often displacement. In my travels south of Jacksonville Beach, I noticed cottages and trailers tucked between upscale houses, but hadn’t given any thought about how that might have happened until I read your book. Thanks for an engaging and realistic story.
Thanks for your comments! Yes, I know what you mean…the changes in many areas of the country are significant. Jax Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Augustine–all feeling the effects of development and change. Presents challenges for many people but also, for better or for worse, creates story opportunities. Thanks again for writing, and all best to you.
Laura, I just finished your book. When we met in Thomasville, Ga at the reader n writer’s event, you asked me to let you know how I found you book. I truly loved it. The characters are so awesome, believable. What a crazy, family! I found myself recognizing a character in someone I’d known. The story that is woven through your novel is beautifully done. One complaint….it ended too soon. I’m ready for sequel.
Thank you for this fine novel!
Joe Ann Hinrichs.
Thanks so much for writing–I really appreciate that. And I’m so glad you liked the book. Yes, in that crazy family we all see some people we know and love, eh? Best wishes, Joe Ann.
Yesterday while at the beauty shop in Tallahassee, another cliente noticed your book. She said-Oh I just finished that-isn’t it wonderful!
I explained how we met you and how impressed we were with your talents.
We agreed we are anxious for the next book. 🙂
Like! Oh, wait, this isn’t Facebook. Thanks, Joe Ann. I’m working on the next one, hopefully it will come together.
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That is great news! I’ll look forward to it.
Went on vacation and brought a stash of books from the library and your book was one of them. You did a great job writing this book. I am especially impressed that it was your first book. Awesome. I loved how you explained all your characters and brought them all together. Will be looking for your next book. Keep up the good work.
Thanks so much, Ann! This means a great deal to me. I appreciate you reaching out.
A wonderful book. I ask myself how much “Bravo” is visible in every family.
Our library in Germany had this book and I love it! All the best for you!
Thank you! I’m sorry for my late reply. Somehow this message was hidden–I’m so glad to know the German edition is finding readers. I appreciate your note very much. Best wishes!
This book was amazing!!!!! I need a sequel!!! You are the type of author readers can’t get enough of….I didn’t want this book to end. I’ll be looking for many more in the future.
From one Smith to another–thanks! Working on my next book now; hopefully it won’t be too much longer. Best to you.