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Ice Trap

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"Dear Dr Woodruff, I hope you don't mind me writing to you. I think I'm your daughter. My name is Miranda and I have a twin brother, Mark ...' Welsh surgeon Dafydd Woodruff's life is about to be blown apart by the unexpected news that, fourteen years before, he fathered twins. But that's impossible according to Dafydd since, despite the subsequent DNA evidence which would appear to prove the girl's case, he's never slept with the twins' mother, the icily formidable Sheila Hailey who worked in the hospital at Moose Creek, an isolated town buried deep in the Canadian wilderness where Dafydd spent a career break fifteen years ago. With his marriage in jeopardy and his medical career under threat, Dafydd takes a flight back to the remote, ice-bound community of Moose Creek to make sense of the impossible, and to confront demons he thought he'd left behind years ago ...

1) The prologue, which follows a native boy hunting in the wilderness, is the sole instance in the book in which the narrative follows a character other than Dafydd. What tone does the scene set for the novel? How does it contrast with the tone of the first chapter, introducing Dafydd? Does the seeming disparity of narratives increase the mystery of the story? How? Do the supernatural elements in the prologue influence your acceptance of them later in the story?
2) The various sexual encounters described in the novel often seem dysfunctional. How do these affect your perception of Dafydd's actions and intentions?
3) Dafydd's narrative is split between the present day and his time in Moose Creek fifteen years prior. How has the place changed in the interim? How have his reactions to it altered? Is he now better suited to the wilderness, though this time forced by circumstances to be there?
4) Dafydd loves two women greatly over the course of the novel. How are these loves different? Is one more valid than the other?
5) Dafydd's first assignment as a doctor in Northern Canada is collecting bits of a man who died in a horrible accident. What other gruesome situations does he deal with, as a doctor? How does this deepen the sense of unease in the narrative?
6) At the outset of the novel, Dafydd has decided he does not want to be a father. He was once a paediatric surgeon - how much do you think his past comes to bear on his wariness of children? How has he changed by the end of Ice Trap? What has he learned from each of the children?
7) Initially haunted by dreams of a fox, Dafydd meets a Inuit shaman, Angutitaq, who transforms the ghost of Dafydd's past into a spirit guide. How does the transformation of the animal mirror Dafydd's transformation? How does the fox come to help him later in the story? Why do you think a symbol of his guilt was able to become such a positive force in his life?
8) Ian is Dafydd's best friend in the town, but Ian eventually betrays him. Does knowing about the tragedies of Ian's past affect your opinion of the character? Do you see his final choice as a generous act or a selfish one?
9) How does the character of Sleeping Bear challenge Dafydd's view of himself as an outsider in the town? How does he help Dafydd to change? Do you think his grandson's resentment of him is justified? Was it fair for him to treat his inheritance the way he does?
10) How does Charlie's ordeal mirror Dafydd's? In what ways does it eclipse Dafydd's? Charlie's lost a leg to a polar bear attack, but says, laughing, "When you gotta eat, you gotta eatÉBelieve it or not, I don't hold it against him." (Pg. 340) Can Sheila's actions be explained in the same way? To some degree, can she be forgiven?
11) How does the meaning of the title, Ice Trap change over the course of the novel? Were you surprised to find it was the name of Uyarasuq's sculpture? What do you think is the significance of the sculpture falling into the ocean?
12) By the end of the novel, Dafydd has found peace within himself, and a resolution to the lies and turmoil surrounding him, but many questions remain. What do you think happens to these characters? Does Dafydd return to Wales or stay in Canada?
Reading Group Tips
  • What would your spirit guide be? What situation in your life do you think would form one? Sketch a picture of this animal, or, like Uyarasuq, create art to commemorate a challenging moment. Name your picture, and share your story with the group.
  • In Ice Trap, nature is not only brutal, but breathtaking and life-changing as well. Why not organize a nature hike, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing excursion for your group? Live in the city? Hold your meeting in a city park to brave the elements.
  • Dafydd's life is transformed by his interaction with northern natives. Do some research on the northern tribes, and share with the group what you find interesting in their histories and philosophies.
Photo Credit:

Kitty Sewell, a psychotherapist and a sculptor, was born in Sweden but met her husband, a young English doctor, while living in Northern Canada. Sewell and her family now divide their time between Wales and Spain, where they own and operate a fruit plantation. Translated into more than ten languages, Ice Trap is Sewell's first novel.