Eowyn Ivey is becoming one of my favorite writers. I was swept away by her novel The Snow Child and her latest, To the Bright Edge of the World, was equally transporting. Alaska is the center of these stories--its landscape, climate, and ruggedness as much a character in the stories as the people. And both books have dashes of magic and unexplained mysteries, which add color and dimension to the stories. They are, I think, fine examples of magical realism.
To the Bright Edge of the World actually tells three stories: two historical and one modern. All three stories revolve around an 1885 expedition into the Alaskan wilderness, and all are told through diary entries and letters written by the explorer leading the expedition, the wife he left behind, one of the members of the expedition, the explorer's descendant, and the curator of the Alaskan museum who receives the explorer's papers. It sounds like a vast cast of characters--and it is--but they are well described and easy to keep straight.
It did take me a while to find the book's rhythm, though, to become accustomed to the jumping back and forth among the story lines. My biggest struggle was with the two historical story lines, which occur a few months apart but are told as if they are parallel.
Once I found that rhythm, however, I got lost in the story. When I was reading, I literally forgot where I was and what time it was. I found the historical story lines more captivating: the explorer trying to navigate and understand the strange land in which found himself and his wife, trying to navigate being an independent woman in a time and place where such initiative was actively discouraged.
The edition I read included photographs, many of Alaska in the nineteenth century and others that related to the story. They were just as fascinating as the text.
While the book was inspired by a real-life Alaskan expedition, Ivey is clearly telling her own story here--one that is engaging and captivating. It held my attention for all of its 400+ pages, and it was worth every stolen moment I took to read it.
If you like mysteries, I cannot recommend Ausma Zehanat Khan's Esa Khattak series enough. It's a new series--the third book just came out--but it's become a favorite. Khattak is a detective with Toronto's Community Policing division, tasked with liaising with the Muslim community and solving crimes connected to that community. He's a quiet, somewhat brooding hero, a man trying to balance his Muslim faith and the demands of his job. The first book, The Unquiet Dead, centers on the Bosnian war. The second, The Language of Secrets, has Khattak racing to stop a homegrown terrorist attack. I had originally borrowed Unquiet Dead from the library but bought a copy for myself before I was halfway through. Now I've cleared a space on my shelves for the series as it grows.
Note: Clicking on a book's cover will take you to the book's Amazon page.