Literate, luminous travels in the far north.
“Why read The Wind in the Willows when you can be Ratty or Mole?” It’s not quite on the order of “because it is there,” but it’s a good enough rationale for adventure and a fine note on which to begin. British-Canadian novelist and essayist Winter (Annabel, 2010) confesses to having harbored desires to wander in the great white north since landing in Newfoundland with her father. He longed for something that we might call freedom, writes the author, whereas what she was looking for was even less tangible: “a glimmering, a beckoning; something in the ice, something promising in the Arctic light.” Going to places that are well away from any tourist track and even the paths of most outdoor thrill-seekers, Winter finds that beckoning in such things as revelations about the differences between Greenlandic and Canadian Eskimos and the glimmering behind the eyes of people zapped by the endless light and space of the circumpolar vastness. Sometimes Winter’s exercises in self-awareness verge on overly New Age–y (“I walked, ran, and wept in those trails in the woods, asking sky, alders, and water to talk to me, to bring me back that hint of something majestic and all-encompassing”). But more often, Winter finds just the right note of learned wonder, taking on big philosophical questions as she roams across the land: when a geologist makes a map, does he or she kill the place being mapped before the first drill is sunk? Is it possible to live apart from and independent of the land, even in a place like New York City? Is a life without contradiction worth living?
With the eye of a poet and the stamina of an Amundsen, Winter proves a delightful guide into unexplored realms. Worthy of shelving alongside Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams (1986).