The Ice Chorus by Sarah Stonich
What happens when you are in your life, filling out the shape of it, and suddenly you see someone and you hear a voice inside your soul say, "Now here's someone."
Love has no rules.
It makes no sense.
It finds you.
Sarah Stonich's The Ice Chorus is a profoundly moving story of love, betrayal, hope, redemption and healing. Lise's life has fallen apart. Her marriage of 18 years to archeologist Stephen has crumbled, and soaring above all the mess is a painter named Charlie. She met him while visiting Stephen on a dig in Mexico, and suddenly she heard it, that little but powerful voice inside her, "Now here's someone."
The story takes place in Ireland and, from her memory, in Mexico. Stonich paints vivid pictures of both places, and her writing is poetic without being too much so. It is not cliche, in my opinion, the characters are real and the dialogue is completely believable, as are the circumstances that surround the entire storyline.
If you like a good love story, then The Ice Chorus is for you. But it's so much more than that. It has layers of love. The layers you find in your own life. The love of a husband and wife, Mother and son, Father and daughter - friend. The love of Remy and Margaret, two new friends and allies in Lise's fight to heal herself from her own misery, is perhaps one of the most amazing of all. Remy, who is such a real character, has written "pages" to his wife every single day of there 40 plus year marriage. Poems, snippets of a song, words of love.
Hands gloved now in crepe of years,
Ease this rough brow
with silken care,
affix the buttons o'er my heart
One of my favourite scenes in the book is when Lise (a documentary film maker) decides to film people in the Irish village she is living in. She soon realizes that the story she is telling through her lens is simple - Love. As in "What is.." Remy encourages her to set up her camera in his hardware shop and record the various customers who wander in and out. Instead of just straight dialogue or 'he said' or "she said", Stonich bookends dialogue with mannerisms, and moments that, to the reader, bring the characters alive.
"Ah, bless you." Kenny faces the camera. "Now what's it you're after?"
Remy crosses his arms. "How you met your bride."
Kenny rubs his forehead. "Oh yeah, I should remember that, sure now. How I met Theresa... how I met..."
Lise looks to Remy, now leaning over the register. "Take your time, Kenny."
Kenny sits, crosses and uncrosses his legs three times. "A course I remember. The year, anyway. That was 'fifty-five, I think. Yup." He leans forward, temples clamped between fists as if he might squeeze out the memory. "Theresa. She was my mother's Saturday girl, for the laundry and what-not. She ironed a shirt for me to wear to a dance I was taking another girl to." He seems pleased to have remembered, but his smile fades quickly. "Theresa. We had forty good years. A great girl, yeah.. a great girl... Christ, Remy, have you a tissue on ya?"
Remy was my favourite character in that he was endearing and funny and a hopeless romantic beneath that rough irish exterior. A father figure to Lise, he was the anchor that held her fast as the seas of her choices raged about her.
By the end of the long day, word has swept the village and a few more people come around to offer their stories. Whether Remy's intended to or not Lise cannot know, but he's introduced her into the tight society of the village, person by person, story by story. Lise may be an outsider still, but perhaps less a stranger.
When he insists she sit down herself, Lise balks.
"How I met Stephen?"
"Nah, the other. The one."
"Oh." She sits and looks at her knees. When she tilts her chin up, Remy nods
While in the store, after many quick answers to "how did you meet your mate?", an old couple sits down and here is the exchange:
A middle-aged farm couple peer shyly from the aisle, hoping to slip out unnoticed, but Remy fetches another chair and steers them both to sit. The wife speaks first.
"We met at a church supper."
"No, Katie, it was a church jumble sale."
"It was a supper, love."
"Randall, you've not remembered one birthday or anniversary without being reminded in twenty-seven years, so how in Christ would you remember how we met!" The woman goes shrill. "I'm telling you now, it was a bleeding supper!"
Randall's neck goes the colour of a beet as he faces the lens. "We met at a church supper."
It's this kind of thing that made Ice Chorus more than a love story. It made me think, "What would I say about my love?" It is also going to hit home to those of us of a "certain age" (cough), as in over 40. If you are married, have children, and are 40 ish and have put your own life on hold to raise your family, then this book will really resonate with you. Heck, you could be ANY age and relate to that! I think that it also may start some healthy debate about morals and fidelity, and what it really means to love someone.
The Ice Chorus is Sarah Stonich's second novel, her first being "These Granite Islands" and she will soon be releasing "Vacationland".
Stay tuned for my upcoming interview with Sarah, as well as a giveaway of her book! In support of this book I will actually be purchasing the book from Amazon and have the book directly shipped to the lucky winner!
You can watch the trailer for The Ice Chorus below.