The teenage narrator of The Ice Age is numb, full of disconnected observances. She describes everything from eating pancakes to getting high in the same understated, delicately modulated tone. The only thing she feels powerfully about is Gunther, the older man who picked her up on the road and with whom she’s been travelling for the last several months. Gunther loves her, too—for her beauty and her innocence—but knows their journey together must end. Soon. It’s just that he can’t quite let her go.
The two criss-cross America, ending up in nameless towns that are wearily alike. They aren’t exactly lost, but they don’t know where they’re going either. Watching a documentary about climate change, she learns that experts believe global warming will actually bring about an instant ice age. This idea runs underneath the story: if the two of them can remain together until the ice age strikes, they’d have each other for warmth, make their own life away from the world. They hold out as long as they can, but the world intervenes before the ice age arrives.
A tender, compelling work, The Ice Age is Kirsten Reed’s debut novel. Her authorial voice occasionally sneaks into the narrative with a word or an observation that’s uncharacteristic for such a lost teenager. It’s never intrusive, however, just enough to show how well Reed has controlled the voice of her narrator, kept always on simmer and never let to boil. The projections of a young woman onto the older man she believes can save her are realistic and subtly crafted, made poignant because we understand where her desperate yearning will lead.
The Ice Age, Kirsten Reed, Text Publishing
Review first published in The Courier-Mail in June, 2009.