Short story writer Raymond (Forgetting English, 2009) ventures into the world of the novel with an atmospheric tale of love discovered, and losses endured, in Antarctica.
In a narrative that shifts back and forth over the course of several years, the love story of Deb Gardner and Keller Sullivan unfolds against the forbidding, but eerily gorgeous, backdrop of the most desolate continent. Deb, a penguin expert aboard an ecotourism cruise ship, returns to Antarctica often to study her beloved flightless fowl and educate tourists about the tremendous toll modern living has exacted upon the penguins’ fragile habitat and the birds themselves. Keller, more newly arrived on the Antarctic ecotourism scene, shares her passion for the environment but takes a less politic approach to educating adventure-seeking tourists about the damages done to the glacial destination. Each has sought out the remote location for reasons slowly revealed, but, ultimately, the pair shares a passion for the polar setting that becomes inextricably entwined with their passion for each other. As the couple's motives for seeking out the isolation provided at the bottom of the world are revealed, so are their efforts at forging a connection sturdy enough to withstand the attacks of time and distance. The unpredictability of the splendors and terrors of life at the southern pole creates a backdrop of foreboding entirely appropriate for the story’s cinematic resolution in a place where people go when they have run out of places to go or run out of spots to hide.
Antarctica, with its bizarre and beckoning realities, plays as large a role in this love story as either of its major characters, and the authentic rendering of the setting distinguishes Raymond’s novel from other stories of love in perilous times and places.