By Eowyn Ivey
Little, Brown & Co, 2016, 417 pages, General Fiction
In the winter of 1885, decorated war hero Colonel Allen Forrester leads an exploratory expedition up the Wolverine River and into the vast, untamed Alaska Territory. As they map the territory and gather information on native tribes, Forrester and his team can't escape the sense that some great, mysterious force threatens their lives. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Sophie Forrester chafes under the social restrictions of being a pregnant woman on her own, and yearns to travel alongside her husband. She, too, explores nature, through the new art of photography, unaware that the coming winter will test her own courage and faith to the breaking point.
This sophomore book by the award-winning author of The Snow Child is just as hauntingly beautiful as its predecessor. Once again, Ivey takes a story of hardship and struggle and infuses it with fairy-tale elements. The Alaska Colonel Forrester and his crew traverse is one infused with magic, spirits, and unknown creatures. Yet the group’s very presence suggests that Alaska is on the cusp of change, and that soon the old magic will disappear.
Told through a series of journal entries and letters exchanged between Allen and Sophie, I was surprised to find that I was equally captivated by both stories. Elements of this story are based on an actual expedition in Alaska that occurred in 1885, and you can tell that Ivey really did her research. Photographs and brochures scattered throughout the book help add an element of authenticity. But most of all, Ivey’s writing made this story an immersive experience for me. I highly recommend this book!