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Authors: Gwyn Hyman Rubio

Icy Sparks

Praise for
Icy Sparks

“Rubio tells an entertaining and absorbing story…vivid and unforgettable.”

—The New York Times Book Review

“Heartbreaking and absurdly funny.”

—Orlando Sentinel

“It's always a pleasure to discover a first-time novelist who writes with depth, wit and empathy. Gwyn Hyman Rubio is such a find.
Icy Sparks
is a triumph of heart and humor.”

—St. Paul Pioneer Press

“[Rubio's] fictional materials are affliction and persecution and out of them she fashions a legacy of joy…a significant addition to the literature of Appalachia, and the world.”

—Louisville Courier Journal

“Impressive…poetic…universally appealing.”

—The Denver Post

“A triumph of hearth and humor…Gwyn Hyman Rubio writes with depth, wit, and sympathy.”

—Lexington Herald Leader

“[Rubio's] first novel is remarkable.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Rubio's big-hearted first novel features Icy Sparks…[who] wins the love and respect of the reader. For all collections where there are tender hearts.”

—Library Journal

Icy Sparks
is a very touching novel that brings forth feelings of love, laughter, and sadness.”

—Kentucky Monthly

“Rubio displays sensitivity and promise…her use of dialect gives the story a lively authentic feel.”

—The Raleigh News and Observer

“Intriguing…The characterizations are so well done a reader might feel [the characters] are personal friends.”

—Macon Telegraph

“What a grand person Icy Sparks is! What a wonderful book her story makes! The pages of this novel almost turn themselves as the narrative glides gracefully from sorrow to sorrow, from joy to joy. Gwyn Hyman Rubio is a marvelous writer. Too grateful to envy, I admire and applaud her triumph and hope that everyone will share it with me.”

—Fred Chappell, author of
Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You

Icy Sparks
speaks to us in an entirely new voice, painfully wise and wonderfully peculiar. In her original first novel, Gwyn Rubio makes us see that the tics and noises her remarkable heroine can't suppress are the pure expressions of a brave and lively spirit.”

—Francine Prose, author of
Hunters and Gatherers

Icy Sparks
is a work of imagination, about being different in a world whose difference brings separation and pain. Icy, in 1950s Appalachia, finds community with others who also don't fit in and acquires an outlook that is wise, serious, and yet comic.”

—Loyal Jones, author of
Reshaping the Image of Appalachia

“A most original work of fiction.
Icy Sparks
is an important contribution to the literature that helps us know the emotional realities of wounded people. It is also one of the few novels of the Appalachian region that goes beyond the description of external reality and places the reader in direct touch with the interior lives of its characters. Brilliant.”

—Gurney Norman, author of
Kinfolks: The Wilgus Stories

“Gwyn Hyman Rubio twists together her dark and comic visions to create a world so marvelous and strange that it takes one's breath away. Her subject is the entanglements of order and disorder in a rural Kentucky setting of the 1950s, and she turns them upside down in a way that challenges our own definitions of where and how we live. She is an extraordinary writer.”

—Stephen Dobyns, author of
The Church of the Dead Girls



Gwyn Hyman Rubio is a fiction writer whose short stories have been anthologized and published in literary magazines around the country. She is a winner of the Cecil Hackney Award as well as a recent recipient of grants from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She lives in Berea, Kentucky.

Icy Sparks



Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane,
London W8 5TZ, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood,
Victoria, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182–190 Wairau Road,
Auckland 10, New Zealand

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England

First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. 1998
Published in Penguin Books 1999

Copyright © Gwyn Hyman Rubio, 1998
All rights reserved

Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to reprint excerpts from the following copyrighted works: “Tune Me For Life” from
God the Supreme Musician
by Sri Chinmoy. By permission of Aum Publications. “Which Side Are You On?” by Florence Reece. © Copyright 1946 by Stormking Music Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Rubio, Gwyn Hyman.
Icy Sparks / Gwyn Hyman Rubio.
p. cm.
ISBN: 978-1-1012-0018-6
I. Title
PS3568.U295I25 1998
813'.54—dc21 98–2829

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Para mi compañero, Angel

In memory of Rachel

O Master—Musician

Tune me for life again.

The awakening of new music

My heart wants to become.

My life is now mingled

In ecstasy's height.



I am grateful to the Kentucky Arts Council, The Kentucky Foundation for Women, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences for their support.

I feel fortunate to have Susan Golomb as my agent. From the very beginning, she has believed in my work and stood by me. Her relentless faith in my writing has kept me going.

My gratitude also goes to my editor, Jane von Mehren, whose talent, intelligence, enthusiasm, and, above all, calming presence have buoyed me during these past two years. She is a woman of class and kindness.

Thanks to Gabriel Geltzer, Jane's assistant, for being both efficient and pleasant. I am thankful to have received excellent help from Dave Cole, my copy editor, and to have benefited from the artistic vision of Maggie Payette, the designer of my book jacket.

I am grateful for the support I received from the Kentucky Chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Association. Through their loving actions and concern, the members of the Kentucky Chapter demonstrated their belief in the unique essence of every human being. I am most appreciative of my friends Loyal Jones and Father John Rausch for their knowledge and sound advice about Appalachia. Thanks to Isaac and Anna H. Ison for their personal collection of Appalachian expressions,
A Whole 'Nother Language.
I want to thank Lisa Hiner for the hymnals and her lovely rendition of “Gathering Home.” To friends far away and to those nearby, I am thankful for their optimistic reassurance along the arduous pathway to publication.

Thanks to the M.F.A. Program at Warren Wilson College for nurturing both my spirit and my mind. A special thanks to the following teachers: Mary Elsie Robertson, for teaching me about courage; Francine Prose, for stressing the importance of humor; Joan Silber, for showing me the value of revision; Stephen Dobyns, for emphasizing the beauty of the creative process; Michael Ryan, for insisting upon concentrated effort; Charles Baxter, for offering hope.

Were it not for Dr. Michael Roy Lyles, for his guidance and concern so many years ago, this novel would not have been written. I will always value his friendship.

My heartfelt thanks go to my brother, Thomas Holt Hyman, for his continuous phone calls of support, and to my aunts, Mitzi Hyman and Dinah Hyman Waterman, for listening to me and encouraging me.

And, finally, I am especially indebted to my husband, Angel Rubio, for his friendship, patience, joyful devotion, and particularly for his thoughtful advice during the writing of this book. His delight in the publication of
Icy Sparks
has been as great as my own. He was the first person to believe totally in my writing; his confidence in my work has remained unwavering throughout the years. My work, my struggles, and my dreams are blessed because our paths are joined.

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