The Thickness of Ice


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The Thickness of Ice is a tender and tragic tale set in the remote subarctic town of Churchill, Manitoba, on Hudson Bay. The barren icy landscape pervades the characters’ lives and relationships. As the novel opens Wade confesses that he was responsible for the death of his best friend Jack three years after meeting him. They had been arguing about Tess, a Dene woman they were both in love with. Jack’s body was never found, and Wade never admitted to the act. It was assumed that Jack had left abruptly. However, many years later, Wade meets Esther who moves to Churchill to live with him. She hears the story of Jack’s disappearance. To bring some closure to Wade, she determines to resolve what happened to Jack. For Wade, his carefully constructed life is now threatened.

Gerard Beirne holds Canadian and Irish citizenship. He has published three novels, three books of poetry, and a collection of short stories. His short story collection In a Time of Drought and Hunger was shortlisted for The Danuta Gleed Literary Award. Gerard has lived in Northern Manitoba and also taught English at the University of New Brunswick. He now teaches Creative Writing and Literature at ATU Sligo, Ireland.

Reviews and Praise

“Set in the Canadian tundra, Gerard Beirne’s exquisite novel The Thickness of Ice is more than a love story; it’s a story of culpability and redemption, propelled by a twenty-five-year-old mystery. . . . Breathtaking and immersive, The Thickness of Ice is a snowbound, heartwarming mystery novel marked by love and beauty, friendship and betrayal, and the darkness of the human heart.” STARRED REVIEW, Elaine Chiew, Foreword Reviews (May / June 2024)

“A deft and moving tale of love and loss on life’s cold margins, in which character is fate, and landscape is character.” Ed O’Loughlin, Giller Finalist & Man Booker Prize nominee

“This is a beautifully cadenced novel of loneliness and desire. The evocation of the physical world is wonderful, the synthesis of the weather of the heart and the elemental landscape is stunning. Prose of grace and clarity is ballasted with real narrative drive as past ghosts emerge. Powerful, evocative, haunting, The Thickness of Ice is an extraordinary novel.” Eoin McNamee, screenwriter, Longlisted for Man Booker Prize  for Blue Tango, author of 19 novels

“Clever writing and pacing make this story not only believable but serve to draw the reader in as all the characters are likeable in their way, but all have their flaws, cracks in their characters… One can tell when good writing is unfolding right before their eyes.” STARRED REVIEW, James Fisher, The Miramichi Reader

“A masterpiece in cadence, rhythm, metaphor, symbolism. Beirne’s characters are rich in detail even as we get so few details, and he has created a landscape so vivid in its emptiness and coldness, and at the same time so mythical, that I was awestruck page after page. Chapter 18 is an opera.” Leila Marshy, Author of Philistine

About Gerard Beirne’s other work

“Beirne’s descriptive writing is superb. He evokes the atmosphere of the town brilliantly, along with the surrounding landscape…” Books Ireland

“By far the most memorable novel of the year for me was Gerard Beirne’s wonderful The Eskimo in the Net…. Just like the central character, Jim Gallagher, the reader is drawn into the depths of both a mystery and a personal voyage of discovery…. Wonderful clear prose and sensitive observation in a tough environment make this an outstanding debut work, scandalously ignored by this year’s Man Booker judges.” Graham Ball ― Daily Express


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