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The Ice Chorus    by Sarah Stonich order for
Ice Chorus
by Sarah Stonich
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Liselle is a grown woman, married to Stephen and mother to Adam, their teenage son. Her life has not turned out the way that she thought it would. At first glance, she appears someone who should be gracious and appreciative of her position in life. Stephen is a handsome, successful archaeologist and is considered a 'good catch'. Adam is a mature, well-adjusted boy, who seems able to practically run his life on his own. Liselle is in good health and lives the comfortable, upper-class lifestyle that Stephen's hard work and intelligence provides.

Liselle, who dabbles in filmmaking, does not have the job pressure that so many people deal with these days. Making short documentaries is more of a passion for her than an actual career. Her other hobby is her garden in the backyard of their home in Canada. With her son growing up and Steven working long hours, Liselle is free to do as she wants. However, she does not relish her freedom and instead feels like an abandoned 'trophy wife.' She realizes that she has always put Stephen's needs and job aspirations - which required them to move several times over the years - before her own. As a result, Liselle never had much opportunity to develop her own talents and has always played 'second fiddle' to her husband's demanding career.

Stephen has always come first and Liselle feels like she is sleepwalking through life. Then she meets Charlie, a renowned painter temporarily residing at a luxurious villa in Mexico, owned by a married couple who collect his artwork. Liselle accompanies Stephen to Mexico on an archaeological expedition and coincidentally their accommodations are at the same villa (the owner is Stephen's colleague). Liselle is left to her own devices for days on end, while Stephen works at an expedition site. She is immediately drawn to Charlie's talent and intelligence. She literally feels more 'alive' around him and an intense affair quickly (but quietly) ensues. This essentially 'shocks' Liselle into living again and she feels like she has awakened from a long, weary dream.

Knowing that she cannot continue her previous life, Liselle travels to Ireland and rents a home on the water. Her goal is to spend time by herself in order to gain perspective. She meets the Connors, a three-generation local family, and learns new things about love and relationships, while growing closer to them and filming a documentary. Though Liselle's existence seems idyllic, she is in pain. She tends to act without considering consequences and while she has no regrets, her previous, comfortable life has unraveled. Her communications with Adam are few and far between and she has haunting memories of her long-deceased father, who held a devastating secret to his death. Liselle forges a new life and develops a new focus in Ireland as she faces her demons, while maintaining a tenuous grasp on the people that she loves.

The Ice Chorus is beautifully written and its subtlety quickly lured me in and held my attention from beginning to end. The novel is peppered with vibrant descriptions of Mexico and of wet, brisk Ireland, so that readers will be just as enthralled by Liselle's travels as with the people she meets and the account of how she works through her failed marriage to start anew.

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