Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson has an innocent ring to it but the girls are definitely not. Vulnerable perhaps but not innocent. In fact one of them is a murderer.
Poppy and Serena are in their mid-thirties and for the past 20 years, their lives could not have been more different. What they shared for a brief period when they were 16 has led them both down two distinct paths: one to jail and one confined to her own personal prison.
So we know from the beginning that Poppy and Serena have a shared past but we don’t know what that means. The story begins 20 years after the event that sent Poppy to jail and Serena well, not to jail. One chapter is about Serena, the next is about Poppy, and slowly, between the present and the past, the tragic story of what occurred in 1989 leaks out.
Serena has a seemingly ideal life: two healthy children, a loving, successful husband, but the reality is that she is deeply scarred by the relationship she shared with Poppy and her high school teacher, Marcus. Serena was tried for his murder and acquitted. The girls were national tabloid stars for months – the poster of them touted as the Ice Cream Girls made them infamous – while the events and the trial ran its course. Her husband does not know a thing about this or her notoriety, her family is not always certain of her innocence. It’s a nightmare of a past to begin with but when Poppy gets out of jail, it really gets dredged up.
Poppy is released from prison after serving out a full sentence for the bloody murder of her boyfriend, Marcus. Poppy can focus on nothing but Serena. She wants to confront her so that Serena will admit, finally, to this bloody murder that ruined Poppy’s life so completely.
Past inevitably collides with present as respectively Poppy and Serena confront the (figurative) ghost that haunts them. While there is some satisfaction in how the Ice Cream Girls leave their shared past behind, the loose ends are still loose. And it is not until the bittersweet end, with an unexpected postscript from the murdered boyfriend that we find out what really happened.
Love the way Dorothy Koomson layers the past and weaves it into the present. She sets a steady pace and doesn’t let up until the story is over.
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