A novel about an unusual summer in a changing world.
Hopwood (Gladys & Jack, 2012, etc.) sets her novel in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, on Frobisher Bay. Rosa Mama is an old Inuit woman who’s seen her town change remarkably over her lifetime. (By the story’s end, she’s even outlived two husbands.) But she’s never before seen a summer when the ice in the bay refused to melt. Iqaluit receives supplies of all kinds from the south, but with an unusually cold summer, boats can’t come in, and planes can barely land. This casts the whole town back to a way of life that’s unfamiliar to most residents, and it prompts the Inuit community to turn to its elders to learn how to survive without modern conveniences. Community leaders organize trips to hunt for caribou, musk-ox, hare, ground squirrels and even seals, which Rosa Mama regards as a blessing in the turmoil of the frozen summer. “I smiled,” she says at a town meeting where hunters assemble. “It reminded me of other years in akunahhee—the season of starvation between winter and summer; but this was new. It was a season of starvation between summer and winter.” As the town contends with its unusual summer, more and more people are willing to listen to Rosa Mama and her peers discuss the way life once was. The joy is cut short, however, when Rosa Mama’s husband, Joe, dies in his kayak on a seal-hunting trip. Their grandson, Adam, witnessed the incident, and it’s up to Rosa Mama to hold her family together long enough to learn the truth about what happened. Hopwood’s novel, written from Rosa Mama’s point of view, effectively captures the outlook of an old woman who knows more than people give her credit for and who cares deeply for those around her. The author also makes a point of including details, such as Inuktitut words, that continuously remind readers of the culture in which the story is set. The book is short, but it contains an extended meditation on traditional culture and progress, as well as a portrait of how families manage tragedy and difficult times. Readers who are interested in the lives of modern Inuit people will be intrigued, but the book will appeal to a much broader niche, as well. The love Rosa Mama has for her family and her home is the story’s central thread, and it’s a fulfilling one.
A quiet, skillful novel about keeping Inuit traditions and family harmony.