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The Year of Ice



Awards: ALA Alex Awards Winner (Adult for Young Adults)

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About The Author

Brian Malloy

Brian Malloy is the development director for The Loft, the largest independent literary arts center in the U.S., as well as grants director for Open Book, a community center for the literary and book arts. He lives in Minneapolis. The Year of Ice is his first novel.

Awards

ALA Alex Awards Winner (Adult for Young Adults)

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Reading Group Gold

It is 1978 in the Twin Cities, and Kevin Doyle, a high school senior, is a marginal student in love with keggers, rock and roll, and-unbeknownst to anyone else-a boy in his class with thick eyelashes and a bad attitude. His mother Eileen died two years earlier when her car plunged into the icy waters of the Mississippi River, and since then Kevin's relationship with his father Patrick has become increasingly distant. As lonely women vie for his father's attention, Kevin discovers Patrick's own closely guarded secret: he had planned to abandon his family for another woman. More disturbingly, his mother's death may well have been a suicide, not an accident.
Complicating the family dynamic is the constant meddling of Kevin's outspoken Aunt Nora-who will never forgive Patrick for Eileen's death-along with Patrick's inability to stay single for very long. His loyalties divided between his father and his aunt, between his internal reality and his public persona, Kevin is forced to reevaluate his notions of family and love as painful truths emerge about both.


1. Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” is referenced several times throughout the book. How does it relate to Kevin? What does Kevin’s evolving answer to his teacher’s question about the poem reveal about Kevin?
2. Kevin’s mother died two years before the events of the novel. Do you think her death was an accident or a suicide? Why does or doesn’t that matter?
3. Both Kevin and his father Patrick are keeping dark secrets from each other, perhaps even from themselves. Do you believe that Kevin’s primary loyalties are to his father or to his own secrets? Are Patrick’s loyalties to Kevin or to his own secrets? How do those loyalties shift over the course of the novel?
4. The Year of Ice is set in Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1978. In what ways do you think the story told is rooted to that time and place? In what ways does the story transcend its setting and time period?
5. Kevin Doyle narrates the novel in the first person. How did you react to Kevin as a character? Would your reaction to Kevin be different were the novel written in the third person or from another point of view?
6. Apart from the Doyle family, what other characters have secrets to keep? How have their secrets affected those characters lives? Is not telling the truth, or the whole truth, the same as lying? And is telling the truth always for the best?
7. After the events of the book, what do you think happens to Patrick Doyle? To Kevin Doyle?
8. The secondary characters in the book often take center stage at some point in the book. What is the importance of Floyd Anderson? Of Kevin’s Aunt Nora? Of Jon Thompson? Of Laurie Lindstrom? Did they succeed or fail as characters in their own right?
9. The events of The Year of Ice take place over Kevin Doyle’s last semester of high school and the first six months after graduation. What events and elements of Kevin’s story felt familiar to your own experiences? Which were unfamiliar and why?
10. There were a number of events or turning points experienced or remembered by Kevin during the course of the novel. Which one do you believe was the most pivotal to Kevin and the direction he takes in his life by the end of the book? Why?

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