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The Ice House

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  871 ratings  ·  161 reviews
From a writer who's been praised for her "intelligence, heart, wit" (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls), The Ice House follows the beleaguered MacKinnons as they weather the possible loss of the family business, a serious medical diagnosis, and the slings and arrows of familial discord.

Johnny MacKinnon might be on the verge of losing it all. The
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published December 5th 2017 by Grove Press
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Always Pouting
Nov 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Still trying to work through these netgalley books, please send help.

I actually don't have much to say about this one because it wasn't bad and so I usually just complain about what I hated but I didn't really hate anything about it? It was an okay book, nothing memorable though. Like I know for a fact I'm going to forget reading this and what it was about in a month probably. The writing was okay as well. I'd pick it up if you just want some adult fiction that's not terrible. I'm sorry I just r
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've read more 5 star books this year than any other. Love it! ...more
3.5Stars: “The Ice House” by Laura Lee Smith is a satisfying read about a man in the midst of crisis in all aspects of his life. His business is facing a shutdown; his son won’t talk to him; his wife seems restless; and his physical health is precarious.

Johnny MacKinnon is a native Scotland man who manages an ice factory in Florida. As the story opens, the Ice House is facing a financially crushing fine from OSHA after an accident in the plant. While he’s attempting to fight the fine and keep t
Sonja Arlow
May 15, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Johnny MacKinnon has a headache.

Not only because the business he has been slaving over for many years may be shut down, or because soon he will be diagnosed with a brain tumour. No, one of his most prevailing headaches has been his son.

Now 9 months off heroine and a new father of a bonny little girl, Corran is alone in Scotland trying to stay clean and learn the ropes of being a parent. But the siren song of heroin is always in the background.

I really appreciated the observations ab
Joy D
Adult contemporary fiction about forgiveness, courage, and redemption disguised as a family drama about a couple who owns an ice factory. Contains one of the most well-drawn set of characters in a book I’ve read this year. One of the secondary characters, Chemal, is among my all-time favorites. Even the dog had a unique personality.

The story revolves around the factory owners, who are currently facing impending brain surgery and business-ending OSHA fines. In addition, difficult family relation
Bonnye Reed
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
GNab If you have read other reviews of this special novel, you may think me addlepated when I tell you that this is an excellent feel good tale. After all, 30 year old Corran, though currently in his fifth phase of freedom from heroin addiction and settled in a small drug free town on Loch Linnhe, Scotland, is facing a life of strife with no marketable skills that will allow him to raise his nine month old daughter as a single parent after his wife Anna receives an extended jail term for selling ...more
Kathryn in FL
I have read Ms. Smith's book, "Heart of Palm" so this was eagerly anticipated. Unfortunatingly, this book was to bogged down in detail that there were several junctures were I considered abandoning it. This family drama could have been more entertaining, if the author hadn't felt the impulse to repeat that an adult child could return to his drug of choice at any moment over and over again. I felt that the reader wasn't consider sharp enough to retain this key detail from one chapter to the next. ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Caution: For erudite audiences only.

That was seriously my first reaction to this book once I finished it. There are so many sesquipedalian words in this book that I had to read it with a dictionary on hand to look up new words every few pages. At first, I thought that the author is very intelligent and has a large lexicon, but when the book ended and I counted 91 words that I needed to define, I decided that Smith probably wrote this book with heavy assistance from a thesaurus. The "thesaurus w
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
The (N)ice House.

Congratulations to relatively new author Laura Lee Smith on writing The Ice House. She gives us a good story peopled with believable characters (I particularly liked Chemal, the kid next door). Most impressive is the dialogue which I found totally believable. The tale is told in a straightforward way without resorting to dual time-frames or multi view-points – something of a welcome rarity these days.

The story is a simple one: Johnny is a fiftysomething Scot who came to Florida
The quotation from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!‘ might have been written for Johnny MacKinnon, owner of Bold City Ice. Not only is he facing the possible loss of the family business as a result of fines imposed due to a freak accident but he has recently received the news he has a serious medical condition. Add to that his fractured relationship with Corran, his son by his first wife, Sharon. Oh, and not forgetting an invasion of Cuban ...more
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It’s been several years since I mourned upon finishing a novel -- but that’s exactly what happened on the last page of The Ice House. I would miss the characters. I would miss that sense of confidence from being guided by a sure-footed author, the feeling that the investment of time, energy and emotion will pay off. Smith conveys rich images economically, without contrivance. One such word-picture comes to mind: a breakfast scene between ice-factory worker Roy and his sleepily uncommunicative, b ...more
Paula DeBoard
I picked up The Ice House once, read the first chapter, and wasn’t all that thrilled. Then I tried again, and I’m glad I did. The writing felt a bit clunky and uneven at the opening, but this quickly became a great read—relatable but somewhat quirky characters, all-too-real but stuff-of-nightmares situations (a brain tumor, a business that might go under, a livelihood that might be lost), and redemptions that felt real and not just convenient.

I was a big fan.

My thanks to the publisher and NetG
Lynn Pribus
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book, wonderfully written with wit and authenticity and with what one reviewer called "robust characters." People you care about and a wonderful elderly dachshund called General.

Amusing, sad, emotional, and utterly engaging.

(Can you tell I liked it?)
Rachel Hall
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Poignant family drama as crises aplenty open up the path to forgiveness for the troubled MacKinnons.

The Ice House is a multifaceted family drama centred on a family in crises as circumstances conspire to leave fifty-three-year-old Scottish born protagonist, Johnny MacKinnon, on the brink of losing his livelihood and contemplating a bleak medical prognosis. Faced with potentially a final opportunity to heal rifts and make some difficult decisions, Laura Lee Smith serves up a sprawling look at the
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a book. I often do not enjoy books like this but this one really grabbed me. It started off a little slow, and I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. The setting of the scene in the beginning was a little formulaic in its description of the physical scenery and the characters' appearances. But once we got to the story, it really got my attention. There are a lot of characters and a lot of perspectives in the narrative, and while sometimes that either muddies things, or the characters ...more
Martin Clark
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Good book, great story, excellent characters, darn fine writing. Time well spent on this one.
Rebecca Tolley
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Received a review copy.

Surprisingly good and engrossing; didn't want to put it down, but had to close my eyes to sleep a few hours before finishing this on a snowday from work. The first few pages made me think it'd be a typical tropey 'southern' fiction novel, but the writer's clever turn of phrase and wit reeled me in

Johnny & Pauline are in their 50s, have been married 25 years. They run an ice plant in Jacksonville, FL that Pauline inherited from her wealthy racist father. They're in troubl
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love reading fictional stories about businesses. I was overjoyed at receiving a copy to review. Quite a lot goes on this heartbreaking journey. Johnny and his wife Pauline have an ice business. It was Pauline that wrote the business plan. Unfortunately Johnny isn't happy that his wife made herself the Chief Executive Officer and he was made as Chief Operating Officer. I had to laugh as the staff nickname named Johnny as Ice. Something I don't like is dishonesty and Johnny wants to forge govern ...more
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
For the first 150 pages or so, I thought I was reading a 5 star book. The early descriptions of the ice plant and its workers was hilarious. I had a feel for what I thought might happen. Then everything changes and the book goes a different direction. I still liked it, but struggled with some of the later characters who just didn’t seem believable to the story. All’s well that ends well. Smith had an interesting blend of all different ages of characters.
Sally Constain
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers who appreciate good writing
Recommended to Sally by: The author
I was captivated from beginning to end. The beautiful writing and skillful storytelling makes for a wonderful read.
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
It was a long long read. Not bad. Not the best. Maybe it wasn't what I was feeling right now. But the story was nice!! ...more
Lucy Burdette
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely LOVED this novel from Laura Lee Smith. Though the book is on the long side, my interest never flagged--I only dreaded the moment where I'd turn the last page. The author has a gift for breathing life into her characters, both the main narrators (a middle-aged married couple) and the less central quirky but endearing characters. She also did a marvelous job of bringing two very different settings to life--Jacksonville FL and Glasgow, Scotland. The plot was rich with twists--an estra ...more
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Pretty much a solid three. At times I really liked; other I could have walked away. The story wavered between engaging and not.

Set in current day Florida, The Ice House is an ice factory owned [inherited] by Pauline [50], and her Scottish husband, Johnny [53]--who may, or may not, have a brain tumor. Johnny has a son, Corran, by his first wife, Sharon, now remarried to Toole; all are friendly. Corran was addicted to heroin; no
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been in a bit of a slump recently with novels, finding so many of them disappointing. It's such a delight to have found this book, which was absolutely wonderful.
The Ice House of the title is technically an ice cube factory in Jacksonville Florida. Pauline and Johnny MacKinnon are the owners, but their lives are personally entwined with a few of their trusted employees. Johnny has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour, and before undergoing surgery, he has an urgent desire to try to r
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A story about family, forgiveness, and all that goes into getting through the rough spots, it had many elements to which I could relate. The characters are basically good people who can't seem to connect to each other. There's the bull-headed patriarch, struggling to understand his drug addicted son while dealing with the possibility of losing his business. There's the unhappy wife who's looking for purpose and her lost youth. There's the fearful son who's trying to raise his infant daughter alo ...more
Dunja *a chain reader*
Johnny MacKinnon is leading a good life, but suddenly changes start to occur. First, there is an accident in the ice factory (where he is the COO), and then comes the OSHA investigation, which may result in a fine so big that he and his wife will be forced to shut down the factory. To make matters worse, Johnny collapses on the factory floor, and after an MRI is told that he may have a brain tumor. Furthermore, he and his son have not spoken to each other in months.

Johnny is not happy with how e
Susan Bennett
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Loved this book. The characters are, as one reviewer put it, "exquisitely human" and the author paints a convincing and touching portrait of each. I found the book harder to put down as my reading progressed, and I probably didn't get enough sleep last night because of it. The story itself is one about a family handling medical, personal and financial crises in the middle of an OSHA investigation into an accident at the family owned business. The author tells the story with a small dose of ...more
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was originally a little puzzled how a story about an ice plant in Jacksonville, Florida could possibly be the stuff of great literature. Joyfully, I was wrong. The Bold City Ice factory is a glacial setting teeming with some of the greatest people (and a dog) that I have ever met in a book. It is about facing adversity, flawed humanity, the healing power of forgiveness and love that binds the whole hot mess together.
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2018
Review to come.
Bookphenomena (Micky)
3.5 stars
THE ICE HOUSE centres on the character of Johnny and his son. Johnny was a quirky guy with everything falling apart at the seams, it was a read with richness and depth. Johnny had family problems, health problems and business problems. His son, Corran has had big, big addiction issues but he was now clean. In the face of Johnny’s looming health crisis these two come to an impasse and it made for great reading once we got there.

I found this quite a slow read to start but it did pick up p
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Laura Lee Smith is the author of the novels THE ICE HOUSE (Grove Press 2017) and HEART OF PALM (Grove Press 2013). Her short fiction has been anthologized in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES (2015) and NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH: THE YEAR'S BEST (2010). A writer who’s been praised for her “intelligence, heart, and wit” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls), Smith has won awards ...more

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“We are the houses of Ha Long Bay, Johnny thought. We cling together, we try to survive. If we are very careful and very lucky, we float.” 0 likes
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