THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY by Samantha Gillison

THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A brooding, richly atmospheric first novel visits the hidden chambers of the soul as a marriage and a family fall apart in the Papua New Guinea jungle. With their young daughter Taylor, Peter and June Campbell plan to spend a year in Papua New Guinea researching microbes. But the couple are carrying more psychic baggage than survival gear. Peter has not done well in graduate school, so June, who has inherited money, is financing the expedition in the hopes that he—ll complete his dissertation. She’s also hoping that the trip will restore their failing marriage. After buying supplies and meeting the resident scientists, who seem skeptical of the family’s plans, the Campbells and bearers trek through the rainforests to their new home. In the small village of Abini, they live in a hut until their house is built; sanitation is rudimentary, insects and infections are rife, but the scenery is magnificent. When they finally move into their house, Peter tries to work, Taylor discovers that her village playmates are more exciting than June’s schooling, and June broods over the distance that is developing not only between herself and Peter but also between the two of them and Taylor. When Peter stops working on his project and spends long stretches of time in the jungle with the villagers, June frantically tries to continue the research. While he is away, though, she’s felled by a virus, and nursed by a frightened Taylor, but she dies before Peter gets home. The locals, who—ve been uneasy around Peter, now become openly hostile, and he and Taylor find themselves increasingly isolated. All of this would have more of an impact if the characters had the complexity of life. Mostly, they don—t, leaving a reader unmoved by the story’s escalating losses. Evocative and beautifully rendered settings, but Gillison’s protagonists are too vague to pack the punch of a modern Kurtz. Still, a most promising debut. (First printing of 25,000)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8021-1627-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998