Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tuesday Review, Icy Sparks, on Wednesday! (With a Side of Know-It-All)

A day is a small wait for a better review. I tell myself what I must.

Icy Sparks, the mid-'50's story of an orphan girl in a tiny town in Kentucky, is an Oprah pick, published way back in 1998. I'm not usually an Oprah pick reader, but a friend loaned me this one and I loved the underlying theme. This was Gwyn Hyman Rubio's first novel.

Icy's mom died a couple of weeks after she was born. Her daddy died when she was just four years old. Icy's grandparents raised the delicate blonde child with the yellow eyes. She's the apple of their eye. When Icy is ten, her world changes drastically.

Icy's Tourette Syndrome surfaced at ten. Her daddy probably had it, too. The tics and jerks and cursing bring no end of problems to Icy's existence. She's already living a fairly isolated existence, but the uncontrollable syndrome puts a wedge between her and nearly everyone she knows. Everyone but her grandparents, her best (adult) friend and the school principal.

I'm not a plot spoiler, so I won't take this much farther, other than to say that I like the way Mrs. Rubio writes about the children's asylum. It's refreshing, definitely not what my jaded reading experience has built in my mind concerning psychiatric hospitals in that era. Very well done.

Also well done is Icy's childhood development - I was drawn back to my own childhood quite effectively. Not that I grew up with a disorder, but I did come up in a town with one road, an hour from civilization, the gangly, red-headed, freckled girl in the midst of short, swarthy Cajun folk. Like Icy, I was a reader and a learner in a school full of kids who aspired to stay where they were, learn just enough. I hurt for the girl through most of this book, hurt for the girl I was.

One of the things I appreciate most about Icy Sparks is the child's sense of humor, as well as the people who matter in her life. Not only is the book fun, Icy is honest with herself, a child who's not at all perfect, but afraid to let others see her, covering up any way she can, including through the use of honest humor, as well as sarcasm. Heart wrenching and endearing.

The most disappointing aspect of Icy Sparks is the ending. There's an undercurrent throughout the book which I hoped to see developed or dropped. Neither really happened. It rose to a crescendo and exploded, with no real resolution. Well, I suppose something came of it, but it was very non-committal. I can't imagine myself writing a novel all the way through and giving it an appropriate ending (endings are tough), but this one, not counting the epilogue, was weak and unsatisfying.

Overall, I truly enjoyed Icy Sparks. Mrs. Rubio did a fine job. I'm certainly interested in picking up her latest book, The Woodsman's Daughter.

A word on the book I mentioned yesterday, The Know-It-All, One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, by A.J. Jacobs - definitely worth your time to read. Mr. Jacobs set out to read the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica, both micro and macro version, 32 volumes, in one year. This book is not only informative - my friend, Heather, now wants to buy a set and read them all, while I feel Mr. Jacobs gave me the Cliff notes, so I'm good - but acts as a memoir. Hilarious, poignant, straight-forward. I enjoyed this book, laughing out loud many, many times. In fact, my Hunny will probably read The Know-It-All next, since I read quite a bit of it aloud to him, drawing him into the story and information.

Mr. Jacobs weaves the overwhelming amount of information he's acquiring with his own story, keeping me hooked all the way through. There's not a section in this book where I ever wanted to put it down and read something else. If you're looking for something that's middle-weight, reads like fiction, but will bring you to the other side feeling a little more intelligent and informed, The Know-It-All may be just the thing.

Still snow-bound. Hoping to get out and about tomorrow. I think another six to eight inches fell today. My kids miss school. I miss the kids being gone and not trashing the house. *sigh* Time to get them all involved in cleaning their messes.

Until I write again ...



Pearl said...

Both books sounds great.

I quit TV a couple days ago (yes, along with smoking). I'm waiting to write about the experience, as I still have the mild nausea and dizziness!, and am working on the piles of books in my living room...

May have to add these to the stacks.


p.s. Loved your "Cake" comment the other day about the short skirt and the long jacket. So hip! :-D

Mental P Mama said...

My book stack may or may not weigh more than I do at the moment.

Jill of All Trades said...

Gosh I'm glad you jogged my mind about Icy. I read that one when Oprah first had it. Forgot about it. Man, my stack of reading stuff just keeps getting taller and taller (or fuller-Kindle).

Karen Deborah said...

Nice book reviews! You piqued my interest! I like funny human books. But I can't do poor endings. A bad ending hangs around me like the flu and I am sick for a week. I argue with the author in my head, and wonder about the publisher and editor.
Snow in the south is sumthin isn't it? WE even got a little.