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 Debut novel based on the true story of a man stranded for 17 years among Eskimos: a fictional biography from a first-time Australian novelist who shows a fine eye for setting and detail but can't quite do justice to her main character. John Robert Shaw, a 1920's aviator trying to set a new record for a solo flight, crashes his plane on the way back from Miami to Anchorage. He loses his arm but is saved by an Eskimo woman named Kioki who feeds him, treats his wounds, and begins to teach him the ways of her people. But John Robert's biggest problems are psychological. His first years in the village are spent reliving the ``bad things'' that have happened to him, both before and after the crash. He's haunted, for instance, by his best friend's death, though it took place years ago; often he believes that he sees and talks to the friend. Extended periods of anger and depression become the norm, and John Robert more than once considers suicide. After he flies into a rage and beats Kioki, he's beaten himself and becomes an outcast. At this point John Robert begins to appreciate the life he has, including his two wives, his children, and his acceptance by the village. Then the United States Army arrives. It's now 1943, and the US fears a Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. Everyone in the village is whisked away to Anchorage, where John Robert is separated from his family. He travels back to South Carolina to reconnect with his mother and sister. Throughout, John Robert reveals lots of angst and anger--dark emotions that make the novel's ending seem too easy. Like the winters so ably described here: harsh, often fearsome, frequently repetitive. You'll never doubt you're in an Eskimo village; you'll just get a little tired of being there.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13115-1
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1995


NonfictionANTARCTICA by David Day
by David Day