Brother in Ice - Alicia Kopf

Staff Pick

Made of metaphor the way the poles are made of ice, Kopf’s ingenious book is a beguiling, shimmering, shifting landscape that draws you in even as it blurs and finally eludes definition. Obsessed with the ends of the earth, Kopf retraces the triumphs and tragedies of its great explorers, explains the auroras borealis and australis, decodes the colors of glaciers, catalogs the microscopic life on an iceberg, and gives a capsule history of snow globes. While she, like Amundsen, Cook, and Peary “feel[s] that my life is at stake” in her venture, at another level she’s not interested in geographic exploration but in “the idea of investigation, of seeking out something in an unstable space.”  She plunges into the most unstable places of all: a person’s heart, mind, and consciousness. Her narrative shifts from “research notes” for a project about ice to a novel so intimate it reads like a diary. Its narrator is a struggling artist. She worries about supporting herself, about selling out to capitalist culture, about being too focused on art to meet the needs of others. Her relationships are fraught; “I can’t be with someone when I’m thinking about someone else, even someone fictional,” she says. The heart of her anxiety is her older brother. Nearly disabled with autism or something like it  (the diagnosis, like the poles, keeps shifting), he constantly stops, frozen, unable to act unless told what to do. How much does she owe him? How much can she understand him? How much is she like him? There are no firm answers, just Kopf’s skilled wielding of narrative, “the axe we use to break the frozen sea that inhabits us.”

Brother in Ice By Alicia Kopf, Mara Faye Lethem (Translator) Cover Image
By Alicia Kopf, Mara Faye Lethem (Translator)
ISBN: 9781911508205
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: And Other Stories - June 5th, 2018