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THIRTY BELOW by Harry Groome

THIRTY BELOW

By Harry Groome


A woman follows her heart to the frigid wilds of Alaska in this rugged romance.

She loves the warmth of San Diego, but 29-year-old Carrie Ritter is tired of her humdrum job as a dental hygienist and the parade of losers that mars her love life. (She had to beat up the latest Romeo when he tried to rape her.) A solution to both problems surfaces in the person of Bart McFee, a tall, gray-eyed, 30-something fugitive from society,” manly yet gentle, who wants to whisk Carrie off to his spread in Alaska. A few plane rides and a dog-sled trek later, she is appalled to arrive at a tiny, wood-heated cabin, with an outhouse set a daunting distance away amid a waist-high October snowfall. Carrie wants to leave, but Bart has already shot all but one of the sled dogs–too many mouths to feed–and there’s no getting out until the river ice breaks up in the spring. Carrie frets and sulks, but Bart soothes her with readings from Thoreau and Whitman, the majestic scenery dazzles her, and the rigors of frontier life give her a bracing sense of self-sufficiency; soon the cabin walls resonate with her and Bart’s sexual raptures. Then, in the months-long winter darkness, Bart leaves for a day’s hunting and doesn’t return–and Carrie’s struggle to survive begins in earnest. Her story intertwines, a bit awkwardly, with the Jack London-ish saga of a wolf named Daredevil, who mercilessly hunts down fawns and then regurgitates them to his hungry pups. Groome is a fluent writer with a gift for evoking setting and character. The novel does have its tedious moments when Carrie and Bart, who is a bland, underdeveloped romantic hero, sit around talking about their relationship, and its climax misfires. But when Groome tests his characters, human and animal, against the wilderness, he moves us with the harshness and beauty of an uncivilized world.

The result is a gripping portrait of life stripped to the bare essentials.