Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Image

Big Picture

Cover illustration
See permission.
The Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books

The Big Picture, a regular Bulletin feature both on-line and off, is an in-depth look at selected new titles and trends. See the archive for selections from previous months.

Season of Ice

by Diane Les Becquets

“In the beginning, there was snow.” Seventeen-year-old Genesis, a lifelong inhabitant of northern Maine, isn’t fazed by the flakes drifting from the sky that signal the first big storm of the winter, but she doesn’t then know what they herald. By nightfall her father, who had gone out on the lake to perform some dock repair, is missing, his empty boat found drifting in the frigid water the next day; within hours, the lake ices over with completeness that prevents a search for his body, leaving Genesis, her stepmother, and half-brothers to make it through the winter facing the near-certainty that the man at the center of their lives is dead—and also the tormenting possibility that he’s not.

That situation may sound like the setup for a mystery, but there’s really not much doubt about Mike’s fate; it’s just that the merest possibility of his deliberate departure, a possibility fed by an offhand rumor, leaves Genesis with a focal point for her anxiety and longing. Her pursuit of the slender thread of gossip (which suggests that he might have taken off with another woman) provides her with a way to remain involved with him still and to explore parts of his life, such as his long periods away at a logging camp, of which she previously knew nothing. Ultimately what she realizes is that she did, in fact, know the important aspects of her father’s life—that he was a good man who loved his family devotedly.

It’s a heartbreaking story from the very beginning, but Les Becquets turns it into something well beyond a mere tearjerker. The setting is as much the point as plot here, with the author moving from her previous southern spicy Cajun venue (in Love, Cajun Style, BCCB 1/06) to frigid northern with touches of Acadian in Genesis’ paternal grandmother. The iced-over northern Maine milieu is superbly realized: Genesis races cars on the frozen lake in winter, a popular regional pastime, but locals are also keenly aware, and periodically reminded by tragedy, of the ice’s intolerance for folly. The winter conditions are vivid in their concrete implications, as Genesis races across the ice under which her father’s body is almost certainly imprisoned, but the setting is also emotionally apt, as Genesis’ bereavement hits a state of suspended animation: “I didn’t think of my dad as dead, even if he was below the ice cover. Instead, what I felt was that he was in some kind of hibernation, and eventually he would wake up and come home.”

In Genesis’ case, that hibernation is, etymologically speaking, literal, and the suspended state of her grief seems logical given the circumstance. Yet such is grief in general; the unusual situation merely gives Les Becquets a particularly telling way to explore the frozen world of sadness and the bafflement that descends upon the bereaved as they struggle to understand a world suddenly empty, a world that changed in an instant (Genesis keeps going over that last afternoon for signs, or to reprove herself for her own insufficiencies). Plainspoken Genesis, who has already lost a mother to abandonment, is articulate about the true extent of her devastation: “I had not just lost someone I loved. I had lost someone who loved me more than anyone might ever love me again.”

Yet Genesis is a character of tremendous strength, a girl of whom her father is understandably proud, and even if she doesn’t find the answers she thought she wanted, she finds enough in her father’s legacy to bring her peace, thawing out of her frozen grief into life just as the spring brings thaw, and answers, to the lake. It’s a tender story of a tough, smart, loving girl who finds that she can rise to the challenge of what she’s lost because of what she’s gained. Readers will understand her and admire her, and find her difficult indeed to forget.

Deborah Stevenson, Editor

Big Picture Image

Cover image by from Season of Ice ©2008. Used by permission of Bloomsbury Children's Books.

[Back to the Bulletin Homepage] [Back to the Bulletin Archives]

This page was last updated on February 1, 2008.