Nikki reviews Girls in Ice Houses by Linda Morganstein


Maxie Wolfe is a paparazzo with seemingly questionable morals and a lack of empathy for those celebrities her photographs affect. She has mountainous attachment issues, stemming from her childhood with an artistic megalomaniacal mother. As described in the novel, Maxie is the result of an experiment in motherhood, which is a very sad way to think about oneself, though very accurate for their dynamic. Maxie buries her emotional baggage under a thick veneer of apathy, and for much of the first half, Maxie’s issues and flaws make her extremely difficult to relate to or empathize with. Honestly I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to finish it through the middle third, but I am glad I did.

Maxie spends much of her time navigating a reluctant friendship with Fisher, a woman she meets in unlikely circumstances, resulting in them both requiring anger management classes. At one point, Fisher convinces Maxie to join her on a trip to her family’s home in the midwest, and Maxie’s reticence towards relationships of all sorts continues to be tested.

I had some issues with the story, as too much emphasis was on cryptic dialogue that started to become annoying, but this was hiding a depth of connections that would otherwise be ruined, so I sort of get why that was necessary. Additionally, the middle dragged on and as a reader, you never quite know why many things are happening until towards the end. As for that, the lengths to which circumstances are connected felt excessively complicated. I can imagine some would have given up at this point, as I almost did. The end of the novel, though not tying up everything completely, did result in a satisfyingly full arc for Maxie. I didn’t expect to like Maxie at all, but by the end I was pleasantly surprised by her once I eventually navigated her difficult past. I can imagine some will be turned off by her, of course, but if you push through, I think you’d agree that she’s worth the trouble, no matter what her mother thinks.

You can download a sample or purchase Girls in Ice Houses by clicking here.