Debut novelist Peace tells the story of a woman who travels to Greenland to find a polar bear in the wild.
Reeling from the sudden death of her best friend, Amanda has trouble finding meaning in the Seattle-based marketing job to which she’s dedicated her life. She hopes to be awed by the polar bear exhibit at the local zoo, but even this is disappointing: “A feeling of sadness came over Amanda. She wondered if anyone realized how manufactured the zoo was.” A conversation with a similarly zoo-skeptical traveler convinces Amanda that she’ll need to go out into nature and seek out awesome experiences firsthand. She decides to put the rest of her life on hold and embark on a journey to northern Greenland in order to attain her new life goal: to see a polar bear in its natural surroundings. The journey ends up being a bit more than she bargained for, as she deals with the physical dangers of the high Arctic as well as psychologically defeating realizations about the Earth’s rapidly changing climate. Laying eyes on one of the world’s most endangered beasts may not change the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, but will it be enough to introduce Amanda to her core self? Peace writes in a simple yet elegant prose style, frequently mixing in facts and figures to keep the reader abreast of the situation’s real-life stakes: “A single polar bear’s natural territory can be hundreds of square miles….A typical zoo enclosure for a polar bear can be up to eighty million times smaller than a wild bear’s home range.” But these didactic flourishes, along with the meticulous documentation of Amanda’s journey (the novel is nearly 500 pages long), sometimes make the work read more like a travel memoir than a fictional account. The motivations for the trip also feel a bit contrived. But Amanda’s quest is compelling nevertheless: an adventure at the top of the world that feels relevant to the life of every reader—and to the planet as a whole.
An enjoyable, if slightly preachy, story of a trip to the Arctic.