THIS COLD HEAVEN by Gretel Ehrlich


Seven Seasons in Greenland
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In a tone that’s fittingly remote and beguiling, Ehrlich (A Match to the Heart, 1994, etc.) relates stories of her visits to Greenland over the past seven years.

Greenland is one cold boreal land, where alpine flora grow at sea level and it’s dark for four months, light for four, and twilight the rest of the time. It has also stolen a large piece of Ehrlich’s heart, as has “the wild genius and second sight of the Eskimos.” She traveled alone—by dogsled and skiff, fishing boat and plane—but she was never alone, for she was passed from friend to friend, up and down the great island. She got around, staying in a small city or a village bolted to a filigree of rock or in the scantiest of hunting settlements in the far, far north. She experienced the shifting planes of light that “were like knives thrown in a drawer,” and the rapture of hard travel to distant places: “I had hitched a ride on a fishing boat going to Unknown Island in cold, bright sun that shone all night.” Then she rides a dogsled the daylong night over foothills lit by moonlight, guided by stars that can’t warn her and her comrades of the thin ice ahead. The long recountings of her visits are interspersed with chapters on the travels of Knud Rasmussen, the Arctic nomad who chronicled the Inuit lifeways all across the north, from Greenland to Alaska back in the early 1900s. At its best—and there are enough bad days to serve as referents—she takes part in a life with the crystalline qualities of blue, glacial ice, and where “reality is at least as permeable as ice, pierced through as it is with emptiness.”

Singular, impressionistic sketches of an otherworld. (maps, illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-679-44200-6
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2001


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