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Black Ice: A Novel
A story about people who are touched and changed by the tragic life and death of a teenage girl.

Lenore Featherjohn is disappointed in her grown sons who live in her basement, don't pay rent, eat the pies she bakes for visitors and may be guilty of murder. Amy McLaren, wife of a local pastor, feels hurt and puzzled because her adopted 15-year-old daughter doesn't accept her as her mother anymore. Dad Black, grappling with Alzheimer's disease, realizes his children don't want to take him to church because his behaviour embarrasses them so he invents symptoms such as sore knees and ear pain so he won't need to go.

All these people are touched and changed by the tragic life and death of a teenage girl named Tully Shenk. As private investigator Jake Rikker and his crusty business partner, May, unravel the mystery, important insights about parent-child relationships come to light. Some of these insights are positive. Others are as chilling as the novel's title.

Hall's characters are believable and she portrays them with sensitivity and humour. Canadians will appreciate the fact that, though the novel is set in the American community of Fog Point, other settings include Toronto and locations in Alberta, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

There are many characters in this novel, more than the reader can keep track of easily. Occasionally it's unclear what's happening partly because of frequent shifts in viewpoint. In a sense the story reflects badly on Christianity since the faith of some characters involves a significant level of pretence, even hypocrisy. However, at its core the story is faith-affirming. Hall is encouraging closet sceptics to admit they're marching to a drummer they don't really hear—or hear only faintly. That's a key step toward developing a more genuine relationship with God and others.

Black Ice. Linda Hall. WaterBrook Press, 2007.

Originally published in Faith Today, July/August 2007.




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