As fragile as spun glass, as soothing as a poem; that is how I would describe The Ice Chorus by Sarah Stonich. I went into this blind, not having heard about the author or the book. The cover picture of a lady wrapped in a red blanket walking on the sea shore, with her unruly hair flying in the wind, is what drew me to this book. Of course the title too had a strange attraction.The story outwardly seems simple and oft told. A dying relationship, a new attraction and life at the cross roads. But as the narrative unfolds, each layer reveals something deeper and touching. Sarah Stonich has not taken the direct route from the point A to B. The journey takes tiny detours into unknown territory which adds a new depth and beauty to the tale.
Liselle Dupree, our heroine, is in her forties and has left her husband Stephen. The story begins with her shift to a tiny cottage on a wind-swept cliff by the sea. It is a remote village on the west coast of Ireland. She’s taken the decision to move away from Toronto and her eighteen year old marriage. A chance encounter with Charlie, a painter, had shaken Liselle’s comfortable but colorless existence with her husband. It made her take stock of her life and how she has just gone along with the flow, submerging her own identity.
In the womb like comfort of her isolated cottage Liselle grapples with coming to terms with her decision and the direction she wants her life to take. It’s a time of healing and discovery for her. The narrative is interspersed with flash backs. Each interlude to the past, takes us one step closer to understanding Liselle. It’s like looking at a painting shrouded with dust. There are vague outlines of figures, which gives an idea of the actual picture. However, as it is cleaned, each swipe of the cloth reveals minute details that give a whole new dimension to the image. The locals in the village are not overtly friendly but they quietly welcome her into their midst as if they know how broken she is and her need to nurse her wounds in private. The elderly couple Remy and Margaret and their granddaughter Siobhan are the anchors Liselle’s new life. They accept her as she is with no expectations or recriminations.
The Ice Chorus is a book to own. There are bits and pieces which can be re-read a thousand times. The wildness of the sea and the fierceness of the wind are almost soothing to a troubled mind. Turn off your phone, close your door and curl up in a chair with The Ice Chorus. It will work its magic on you. It’s a book which cannot be rushed. It should be allowed to gently seep into your mind, spreading like warm honey, soothing old wounds and smoothing over scars which you never knew needed healing.