A New York Times Notable Book and the March 2001 selection of Oprah's Book Club®.. First published 1999.
Icy Sparks is the sad, funny and transcendent tale of a young girl growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky during the 1950s. Gwyn Hyman Rubios beautifully written first novel revolves around Icy Sparks, an unforgettable heroine in the tradition of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird or Will Treed in Cold Sassy Tree. At the age of ten, Icy, a bright, curious child orphaned as a baby but raised by adoring grandparents, begins to have strange experiences. Try as she might, her "secrets"verbal croaks, groans, and physical spasmskeep afflicting her. As an adult, she will find out she has Tourettes Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, but for years her behavior is the source of mystery, confusion, and deep humiliation.
Narrated by a grown up Icy, the book chronicles a difficult, but ultimately hilarious and heartwarming journey, from her first spasms to her self-acceptance as a young woman. Curious about life beyond the hills, talented, and energetic, Icy learns to cut through all barriersphysical, mental, and spiritualin order to find community and acceptance.
Along her journey, Icy faces the jeers of her classmates as well as the malevolence of her often-ignorant teachersincluding Mrs. Stilton, one of the most evil fourth grade teachers ever created by a writer. Called willful by her teachers and "Frog Child" by her schoolmates, she is exiled from the schoolroom and sent to a childrens asylum where it is hoped that the roots of her mysterious behavior can be discovered. Here Icy learns about differenceher own and those who are even more scarred than she. Yet, it isnt until Icy returns home that she really begins to flower, especially through her friendship with the eccentric and obese Miss Emily, who knows first-hand how it feels to be an outcast in this tightly knit Appalachian community. Under Miss Emilys tutelage, Icy learns about lifes struggles and rewards, survives her first comical and heartbreaking misadventure with romance, discovers the healing power of her voice when she sings, and ultimatelytakes her first steps back into the world.
Gwyn Hyman Rubios Icy Sparks is a fresh, original, and completely redeeming novel about learning to overcome others ignorance and celebrate the differences that make each of us unique.
The San Diego Union Tribune
Gwyn Hyman Rubio's plucky, imperfect heroine Icy Sparks throws herself into life with a ferocity that cannot be denied.
The New York Times Book Review
Vivid and unforgettable...brimming with love and hope.
Fred Chappell, author of Moments of Light
What a grand person Icy Sparks is! What a wonderful book her story makes! The pages of this novel almost turn themselves as the narrative glides gracefully from sorrow to sorrow, from joy to joy. Gwyn Hyman Rubio is a marvelous writer. Too grateful to envy, I admire and applaud her triumph and hope that everyone will share it with me.
Stephen Dobyns, author of The Church of the Dead Girls
Gwyn Hyman Rubio twists together her dark and comic visions to create a world so marvelous and strange that it takes one’s breath. Her subject is the entanglements or order and disorder in a rural Kentucky setting of the 1950’s, and she turns them upside down in a way that challenges our own definitions of where and how we live. She is an extraordinary writer.
Loyal Jones, editor of Reshaping the Image of Appalachia Icy Sparks is a work of imagination, about being different in a world whose difference brings separation and pain. Icy, in 1950’s Appalachia, finds community with others who also don’t fit in and acquires an outlook that is wise, serious, and yet comic.
Francine Prose, author of Hunters and Gathers Icy Sparks speaks to us in an entirely new voice, painfully wise and wonderfully peculiar. In her original first novel, Gwyn Rudio makes us see that the tics and noises her remarkable heroine can’t suppress are the pure expressions of a brave and lively spirit.
Gurney Norman, author of Kinfolks The Wilgus Stories
A most original work of fiction. Icy Sparks is an important contribution to the literature that helps us know the emotional realities of wounded people. It is also one of the few novels of the Appalachian region that goes beyond the description of external reality and places the reader in direct touch with the interior lives of its characters. Brilliant.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by mmmart Boring This book was boring. It never really got good, it also took me a long time to read it since it was so boring.
Rated of 5
by msommer I kept waiting for it to pick up Pretty boring. I like to read Oprah's Book Club books but this one did not do much for me. I kept waiting for it to get good. The middle section at the hospital was interesting and that was it. For the most part I was disappointed.
Rated of 5
by LaVelle Brown Icy Sparks Great story that was seriously flawed by religion and the premise that God can cure or fix everything. Sections one and two are a pleasant read. Section 3 is driven by a word for word delivery of a fundamentalist Christian revival, It was... Read More
Rated of 5
by Sarah Disappointing End to a Universal Tale The story of Icy Sparks is a gripping tale of a young girl as she copes with undiagnosed Tourettes syndrome. Icy is an inspirational character; her journey raises valid questions of acceptance and superficial judgement. From a stylistic point of... Read More
Rated of 5
This book started strong and I truly enjoyed it but by the end of the book it seemed that it didn't know which genre it should be - a romance, a religious novel, etc? I don't recommend reading this book.
Rated of 5
Excellent - moving, endearing and will resonate after reading.
This witty and lovingly told memoir takes readers back to a time when small-town America was caught in the amber of the innocent postwar period--people helped their neighbors, went to church on Sunday, and kept barnyard animals in their backyards.
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