This realist novella about one summer in the lives of an ice skating family takes a surprising turn.
Jilli, one of three children raised to be a champion ice skater, narrates this short novella. Her brother had won the silver in the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan, and her sister, Rox, is feeling torn between her commitment to ice skating and her desire to be free from commitments so she can see her friends and connect with her Hawaiian heritage by hula dancing. And, although Jilli narrates, Rox is the star of the show. Their parents make a deal with her that she can have the summer off if, in the fall, she redoubles her efforts toward qualifying for the 1976 Olympics. Thus begins her summer of fun, replete with pool parties and boys and plenty of dishy stories to share with her sister in the morning. The story takes a startling turn, however, when Jilli recounts the local myth about “the White Witch,” who supposedly haunts a set of former mining caves where the kids like to party. Rox confesses that since she was a child, she felt drawn to the site of a mining accident, and this undeniable pull ends in tragedy. Ultimately, the novels feels a bit like a bait and switch; the family’s complete commitment to figure skating would certainly make for an interesting family dynamic, yet this storyline gets little airtime. A peek into the life of a highly competitive athlete would certainly have been a compelling hook. Somewhat abruptly, though, the story plunges into typical small-town tragedy, with no real discussion of the aftermath. It feels abrupt and somewhat forced, and the family’s interest in ice skating feels superfluous.
With additional work, this slim volume could be fleshed out into an intimate portrait of an unusual family of athletes.