This gripping novel of Arctic survival, brilliantly written by an author who has been described as "a young Ondaatje," is based on one of the most remarkable events in polar exploration. In 1871, off the coast of Greenland, nineteen men, women, and children, voyaging on the Arctic explorer USS Polaris, were cast adrift on a large ice floe as their ship began to founder. Afterlands is the story of this small society of castaways-a white and a black American, five Germans, a Dane, a Swede, an Englishman, and two Inuit families-as they try to survive a six-month winter ordeal, struggling with the harsh elements and with one another, the group splintering into factions along ethnic and national lines. Steven Heighton provocatively fills in the blanks of the documented history of this event by focusing on the suspicions, the hunger-induced delusions, and the unrequited longings among three members of the group: Roland Kruger, an educated, witty, rebellious German seaman; Tukulito, or "Hannah," the party's Inuit interpreter; and George Tyson, the American ranking officer, who later wrote an account of the experience that solidified his reputation as a hero while casting Kruger as the villain. Throughout the novel, Heighton incorporates actual passages from Tyson's contentious account, then daringly imagines the aftermath of the ordeal, following Kruger, Tukulito, and Tyson as they attempt to move beyond their searing memories and resume their lives in the larger world. Combining the high drama of Arctic survival and the psychological intensity of modern theater, this beautifully written novel powerfully addresses themes of belonging, nationalism, and love in times of crisis. Steven Heighton's first novel, The Shadow Boxer, was chosen as a 2002 Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly and has been published in five countries. He is also the author of several books of poetry and short fiction. His work has received awards in Britain and Canada, has been translated into eight languages, and has been internationally anthologized. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2006
Branch Call Number:
406 p. :,ill. ;,22 cm
From Library Staff
In 1871, 19 members of the crew of the ship Polaris were cast adrift on the ice off the coast of Greenland. This novel retells the event, and it's fascinating to watch how they survive and what happens between the different survivors.