A Season at the Edge of the World
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A compelling mix of adventure, travel, natural history, and emotional recovery set against the exotic backdrop of an Icelandic summer. Nine months after his mother was stabbed to death by an intruder, Fergus retreated to Iceland for a healing season with his wife and 8-year-old son in a rudimentary sea cottage they called Little Lava. The solitude and privation (it’s reachable only by crossing a lava field and tidal flats, and then only at low tide; there’s no running water or electricity) are just what he needs to rebuild his life. Though he comes to terms with his mother’s death, the emotional rapprochement takes place offstage, and grief remains a subtext. The real focus is Iceland itself. For Fergus, a sportsman and naturalist (Swamp Screamer: At Large with the Florida Panther, 1996; A Rough-Shooting Dog: Reflections from Thick and Uncivil Sorts of Places, 1991), the country is both analogue and anodyne to his grief. “In Iceland I reveled in the emptiness of the land, which reflected the emptiness inside me,” he writes, but the oddities of a northern summer (which features 24 hours of daylight and weather by turns harsh and idyllic) and the elemental nature of his accommodations help him to begin functioning again: “Any act, of work or leisure, any untroubled thought, was an achievement. . . . helped draw me out of bleak and mindless lethargy.” He spends the interminable days hiking the rugged lava field from which the house takes its name, fishing, mountain climbing, sea kayaking and observing the myriad birds that breed on Iceland’s coast. Among his sightings, the discovery of a rare pair of nesting sea eagles stands out. And he evocatively describes Iceland’s many volcanoes, its dramatic sagas and bewitching folklore, and the legendary hospitality of its people. No tears, but plenty of convincing testimony to the redemptive powers of nature. (b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-374-52552-8
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1998


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