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Thin Ice: Coming of Age in Canada Paperback – March 30, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Edition edition (March 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679769595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679769590
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,751,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

YA. Humorist McCall (The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, etc.) spent his adolescence during the 1950s in a household that was cold, both physically and emotionally. Looking back from his current vantage point of success in both career and psychological health, he vividly recalls his experiences with a tyrannical father; an alcoholic mother; and four brothers who, like him, substituted writing and drawing for their missing parental relationships. The hurts suffered are evoked in detail?by an author who, from the outset, appears to readers as a survivor. For that reason this memoir should find a teenage audience, especially among those who have turned to books to escape similar family circumstances. While the facts of McCall's youth?and his family in general?are indeed grim, his humor shines through in many passages, making this laugh-out-loud material. Thin Ice would make a good candidate for reading aloud to students whose own reading skills are not equal to their interests and needs. Although the setting is definitely of another time, the pitfalls of ill-fitting sports equipment, overcrowded living quarters, unresponsive school administration, and unreliable parents are recognizable, empathy-inducing situations for contemporary youth at similar risk.?Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Canadian-born McCall here remembers what appears to have been an unhappy and unsatisfying time on his native heath, attributing it to negligent parents who hated having begotten their six children and to the fact that he could never respond to the "Canadian style"?"the patience, the mildness, the taste for conformity"?which he found stifling. His discontent and embitterment led him to the United States, where he at last found his place in the sun. McCall, an illustrator and writer for such magazines as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, creates the atmosphere of his boyhood, youth, and early manhood with a keen feeling for words, although at times he appears guilty of gross oversimplification of the Canadian character. He seems content now, but his renunciation is not complete, for he has yet, after 35 years of living and working in the United States, to take out citizenship papers. The book does produce a certain sustained interest and is recommended.?A.J. Anderson, Simmons Coll., Boston
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
Thin Ice is one of the best books I have ever read. I also grew up in a large, dysfunctional family in southern Ontario in the fifties and sixties with a tyrannical, alcoholic father in a tense, cold emotion-starved environment. It wasn't until I was in therapy many years later for an anxiety disorder that I even realized that my childhood was far from normal, and all the feelings of inadequacy and inferiority I had carried all my life stemmed from my childhood.
Thin Ice was a very painful book for me to read, because it is a tearful, emotional trip back in time, but a journey that was necessary for me to understand what happened to me and to finally stop blaming myself. Thin Ice is also uproariously funny, and I am reading it a second time. I, too, yearned to leave Canada behind and move to the United States. I left Canada over a decade ago to raise our children here and have never looked back. After therapy and Bruce's book I can finally leave it emotionally behind, also.
Canadians get very upset when they are poked fun at, and Bruce does it like a pro. If you are a Pierre Burton nationalist, prepare yourself to be indignant. Bruce "tries to create a time when things were very different indeed - a time when a Canadian, certainly this Canadian, felt himself to be two thirds American, with the other third composed of a grayish ball of chaff: hockey/plaid/butter tarts/earmuffs/CBC/Mounties/toques/wheat/fish/lumber/God Save the King/Queen".
I bought Thin Ice to be entertained and I not only laughed until I cried, I also really cried and gained a priceless insight into my complex childhood and the key to my personality today.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. McKeon on June 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Wanting to know more about Canadian perspectives on the United States, and attracted by quotes indicating that P. J. O'Rourke and Peter Jennings found it very humorous, I bought this book. Unfortunately, I was once again reminded not to attribute too much credit to quotes from reviews printed on a book's cover. This is a far from humorous work; rather, it is a painful read.
McCall's memoir is a bitter reflection on his childhood in Canada. His depiction of the Canada in which he was raised seems to arise from inductive reasoning: since his was a poor, emotionally uncommunicative, and disfunctional family he attributes those same attributes to the entire nation. Since McCall's personal life only took an upturn upon his immigration to the United States in retrospect everything American in his youth was bright, colorful, luxurious and exciting; things from Canada on the other hand were grey, utilitarian, and boring. Americans were fun and vigorous; Canadians dour and laconic.
McCall's memoir constitutes an unrelenting denunciation of his parents' rearing of their children. His mother is depicted as a tragic, downtrodden, alcoholic who withdrew into alcohol as an escape from the burden of six children and a domineering, unsupportive husband. His description of his father is severe: mean, tyrannical, selfish, belittling. The denunciations are so excessive that about two thirds through the book the one wonders whether McCall doesn't regret missing the opportunity to drive a stake through his father's heart. He describes a stark childhood entirely devoid of love, happiness, or material comforts and attributes all his failures and personality quirks and those of his siblings to their upbringing.
This was a hard book to plow through, much less finish.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 20, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it is American vs. Canadian sense of humor, (i am in California) but i did not find this book at all funny. It is a poignant description of a dysfunctional family which is descriptive without being overwhelming with pain and sadness. It is a story of survival and not necessarily entertainment
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. P. Reed on April 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Buy It!

McCall's wit went twelve rounds with innumerable past tragedies created by his unfathomably selfish and self-destructive parents - and survived, for which the literary equivalent of the Heisman Trophy should be his reward.

The National Lampoon and TNY comic illustrator & satirist sweated out the manuscript for eighteen months (aided by a brother who, amazingly, kept a daily diary for 49 years!), & produced an excellent memoir - which he then forgot to send to his agent, as he relates in his Acknowledgements. Who can not admire someone whose creativity and candor is so seamlessly intertwined, so disarming?
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