The Ice Garden
by Moira Crone

Carolina Wren Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-932-11296-5.
Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
Posted on 07/03/2015

Fiction: Literary

Ten-year-old Claire has a beautiful mother who suffers from a severe and long lasting depression, a father who is unrealistic about his wife's limitations, and a brand-new baby sister, who she is determined to protect from her mother's indifference. Claire matures way before she should have to. Her mother can't guide or teach her to problem solve. She is emotionally unavailable. Moira Crone's eloquent novel, The Ice Garden is a lyrical cry for help from the South as it was in 1962.

Claire's mother, Diana, loves music more than her daughters. When her music becomes forceful and intense, Claire knows another onset of strange behavior is likely to follow. Connor, her father, refuses to see that his wife has severe problems. Claire loves him and does all that she can to care for the new baby, Sweetie. Sydney, who is the sane and stabilizing force in the household, is also the maid. She is a black woman living in North Carolina in 1962. She loves Claire and Sweetie and she wants to help them but she has a life outside that house, a man interested in marrying her, and a life of her own.

Diana attacks Aunt C, who's come to help with the new baby. Aunt C. leaves with a broken shoulder, and the family doctor now has a reason to commits Diana to a mental hospital. After she returns her depression is seasoned with a large portion of paranoia.

She has to satisfy the doctor. She has to prove herself. Her fears about being locked up keep her self-centered. Though she lives in a successful upper class family, Claire feels like an orphan.

Living with a mentally ill parent deprives a child of security and consistency. Mental illness has the ability to alter lives and perceptions. Its destruction can be deadly. This story brings back a bygone era. So much dysfunction and denial was not yet identified. No wonder some people lost their minds.

Moira Crone shares the family's uncomfortable truths with intensity, fervor, and authenticity. This psychological family drama is exquisitely detailed and rendered with emotional depth. She creates a powerful world in which we empathize with Claire, her plight, and the destruction that mental illness can cause. Crone is a talented writer. Her thoughts and images stayed with me after I finished the book.

Moira Crone is a widely published short story writer and novelist. In 2009, she received the Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction from the Fellowship of Southern Writers for the body of her work. In 2015, The Ice Garden received the Gold Medal from the Independent Pubisher Awards for fiction Southeast. Visit her website.

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