I am invariably drawn to post-apocalyptic fiction, fascinated with an author's imagining of what life may be if the world as we know it ends. Sandra Newman's depiction of a ruined world is brilliant in her novel, The Country of Ice Cream Star.
Ice Cream Star lives with the rest of the Sengles in the woods, scratching out a living by hunting or scavenging in 'evac' houses. Life is hard - and short. By the time a person reaches eighteen, the 'posies' set in - and death is inevitable. When a white man is flushed from an evac house, he brings the possibility of a cure, for he is old - at least thirty years. Ice is determined to find the cure to save her brother Driver, who has just turned eighteen, as well as the rest of her people.
This was such an amazing book on so many levels. Newman's plotting is rich and wide and so very, very inventive. The story is told in first person narrative from Ice Cream Star's viewpoint. I was completely captured by her voice, her attitude, her fears, her strengths and so much more.
I think readers will either choose to stay up late or put the book down after the first few chapters of The Country of Ice Cream Star. Newman's prose are amazingly original - it's language you will recognize, but words have changed and evolved over the course of the intervening years since the collapse of our time. From the back cover blurb:
"My name be Ice Cream Fifteen Star. This be the tale of how I bring the cures to all the Nighted States, save every poory children, short for life. Is how a city die for selfish love, and rise from this same smallness. Be how the new America being, in wars against all hope - a county with no power in a world that hate its life. So been the faith I sworn, and it ain't evils in no world nor cruelties in no read hell can change the vally heart of Ice Cream Star."
I enjoyed discovering the meanings of 'new' words and finding the remnants of the old tucked among them. I was able to imagine the words spoken aloud, the cadence and the rhythm and patterns of the Sengle patois. The Country of Ice Cream Star would not be the same book told in everyday English. That being said, I can see it frustrating some readers - mores the pity.
Factions of all sorts have sprung up in this new world and remembered faiths, traditions, societies and their mores have been bastardized. Newman's descriptions, dialogues and settings were so very vivid. And again, I loved finding the remnants of the past hidden in the rubble of this world. The action and tension is palpable as Ice races to find a cure before her brother succumbs. Newman also deftly explores Ice Cream Star's sexuality. I found myself drawn into the hunt for the cure, only climbing out when forced to. (Darn job gets in the way of serious reading time!)
The Country of Ice Cream Star is an epic read with a unique hero, a brilliant plot, oodles of adventure and ingenious world building. I loved it. Who else did? Another of my favourite authors, Kate Atkinson, has a one word blurb on the front cover..."Astonishing.." Yep, that sums it up in one word.
Read an excerpt of The Country of Ice Cream Star.