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Flight of the Goose: a Story of the Far North

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"Amazing... I loved this book (and) am recommending it to everyone I meet." ~ Sandra Ingerman, author of "Soul Retrieval"

"Moving and extremely well-written... Besides shamanic themes... the story addresses many other significant issues - climate change, environmental crisis, and indigenous rights - and it does so with both artistry and insight." ~ "Shaman’s Drum Journal"

"Flight of the Goose" is an award-winning novel set in a traditional village and the wilds of the far north, where author Lesley Thomas grew up.

1971, the Alaskan Arctic. "It was a time when much was hidden, before outsiders came on bended knee to learn from the elders. Outsiders came, but it was not to learn from us; it was to change us. There was a war and a university, an oil company and a small village, all run by men. There was a young man who hunted geese to feed his family and another who studied geese to save them. And there was a young woman who flew into the world of spirits to save herself..."
So relates Kayuqtuq Ugungoraseok, "the red fox". An orphan traumatized by her past, she seeks respect in her traditional Inupiat village through the outlawed path of shamanism. Her plan leads to tragedy when she interferes with scientist Leif Trygvesen, who has come to research the effects of oil spills on salt marshes - and evade the draft.
Told from both Kayuqtuq's and Leif's perspectives, Flight of the Goose is a tale of cultural conflict, spiritual awakening, redemption and love in a time when things were - to use the phrase of an old arctic shaman - "no longer familiar".

"What an extraordinary novel... (Thomas) deals with shamanism and sorcery in a very realistic way..." ~ "Sacred Hoop Magazine"

"An) exquisite example of storytelling... A gifted writer with a sense of Alaska Native culture and tradition..." ~ "First Alaskans Magazine"

"A serious work of modern literature... Portrays a world in which traditional values clash with modern expectations." ~ "Alaska Anthropological Association"

"Masterful... Remarkable... Gripping...The authenticity palpable... A joy, a big broad deep river of a book, a work of substance and great beauty of both vision and style... I was moved by the characters and their fates as I have not been by a novel in a long time." ~ Richard Hoffman, author of "Half the House"

"Flight of the Goose" won first place in several literary contests. It is endorsed by Alaska Native Elders, anthropologists, scientists, writers and shamans.
Read at universities and schools, book-clubs and in academic libraries worldwide

434 pages, Paperback

First published February 12, 2005

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About the author

Lesley Thomas

2 books36 followers

Lesley Thomas wrote "Flight of the Goose: A Story of the Far North", an award-winning novel about culture clash, science, deep ecology, shamanism and tragic love set in the wilds of the Alaskan Arctic.

Thomas grew up there in a multicultural family blending ancient and new traditions.

As an ecologist, her study of the effects of oil spills on arctic salt marsh came into play in "Flight of the Goose".
She also wove in her substantial knowledge of mythology, Indigenous societies, subsistence skills and cross-cultural relations. Her novel is endorsed by Native Alaskan elders, top arctic anthropologists, shamanic practitioners such as Sandra Ingerman, scientists, mystics and literary critics.

The Alaskan author's circumpolar themed stories have appeared in "The Northern Review" journal, and in "Cold Flashes" - an anthology of flash fiction set in Alaska. She also has published poetry and nonfiction and taught at colleges and Katchemak Bay Writers conference in Alaska.

Her website:

"Flight of the Goose" is:

FIRST PLACE WINNER of the National Federation of Press Women Communications Award

FIRST PLACE WINNER of the Washington Press Association Communicator of Excellence in Fiction Award

FIRST PLACE WINNER of Alaska Press Women Communications Award

Finalist for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award

"Flight of the Goose" has been studied at Boston University, University of Alaska, University of Washington, North Slope School District, Sterling College in Vermont, and by students of Sandra Ingerman and book clubs the world over.

Indigenous readers' praise:
"An) exquisite example of storytelling... .a well-written page-turner that will warm your heart. (Thomas is) a gifted writer with a sense of Alaska Native culture and tradition."
~ "First Alaskans Magazine";

"A wonderful tale." ~ Arctic Sounder

"Flight of the Goose is a remarkable achievement... a novel about loss and loneliness, alienation and fear,
acceptance and forgiveness, natural and supernatural (whose) characters seem drawn from life. Its
memorable characters, believable setting, and complex treatment of problems that face us all in a world of unavoidable change and contact, will haunt the reader long after the covers have been closed."
~ Fred Bigjim (Inupiaq), author of "Plants: A Novel", & "Echoes from the Tundra"

The book brought back many childhood memories growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s here
in the Yukon Kuskokwim Deltas."
~ John Active, (Yup’ik), in "Tundra Drums"

"A truly glorious manifesto... brilliant... an amazing understanding... To be an ambassador between these two worlds is a daunting, even hellish task. However, Thomas seems to be the perfect ambassador."
~ Jack Dalton, (Yup'ik) storyteller and teacher

More Praise:
"Thomas is a brilliant writer. She weaves together a love story, life in an Alaskan village, shamanism, spiritual awakening and deep ecology. I am recommending this book to everyone I know."
~ Sandra Ingerman, author of "Soul Retrieval"

"One of the best novels of Alaska that I have read...Thomas writes with an unerring knowledge of anthropology and social and environmental issues."
~ Dr. Dorothy Jean Ray, A Legacy of Arctic Art

"The story took my breath away. I wept my way through it, identifying profoundly with both protagonists. The author has a fine grasp of the complexity of human relations and culture in such a village.." ~ Dr. Jean Briggs, "Never in Anger; "Inuit Morality Tales"

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5 stars
62 (45%)
4 stars
47 (34%)
3 stars
17 (12%)
2 stars
4 (2%)
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5 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews
Profile Image for L.G. Cullens.
Author 2 books77 followers
March 23, 2021
I found this story interesting and enjoyable — interesting in the contrasting of cultures and settings, and shared human proclivities, good and bad; and enjoyable in the accomplished writing, good character studies, and creative down-to-earth plot. I especially liked many of the sprinkled insights, and ecological aspect. There is a good bit in this story, camouflaged in the plot interactions and flights of fancy, that should resonate with readers.

That, though I tended to nod off during some of the ups and downs of romance passages, I did chuckle at an innovative, shamanistic inclusion of a bear spirit in one such scene. Also, at times the story seemed a bit drawn out, but not so much that I skimmed over portions.
Profile Image for Chana.
1,589 reviews145 followers
July 20, 2014
This is an excellent book for someone like me; interested in indigenous peoples, environmentalism, spirituality, and love between human beings that recurs over lifetimes.
This was not a book I had to force myself to read, although sometimes it was dark, or frustrating, and often very sad. I didn't want to put it down and I wasn't sighing and thinking 'how many more pages of this'. I was engaged in the story and willing to let it go whatever direction the author took it, although that may have been because I could agree or at least admit possibility of things being as the author presented them. I cried a lot at the ending chapters but I was not left with a sense of futility.
Most of the book is set in the early 1970's, a time when this country was near the end of its transition from national pride and hope to national shame and pessimism. The Eskimo population, in the fictional town of Itiak, in the Alaskan Arctic, isolated as it was, was also dealing with transitions to the modern world. It was not an easy transition as what is left for the Indigenous peoples? Scraps of land? Tatters of their past? Then there is alcohol to fuel the hopelessness and help death come earlier. As I said, it was sad.
I can't tell you why this book isn't utterly depressing, but it is not, at least it was not for me. I saw a possibility of the infinity of love, that what exists in the physical world does not end with the physical world. I thought it was a beautiful book.
Profile Image for Lesley Hazleton.
Author 21 books675 followers
December 15, 2007
Lesley Thomas has done what would seem to be the impossible -- taken us deep inside the Inupiat world, in the voice and mind of an extraordinary young woman with still more extraordinary powers. I know of no book like this. "Smilla's Sense of Snow" is a distant second. But two movies come to mind: "Fast Runner," and "Dersu Uzala." If you love either of these movies, you'll be stunned by the depth and scope of this novel and the unique and unmistakably true voice of its heroine. And if you've never seen them, read "Flight of the Goose" first!
Profile Image for Barbarac.
363 reviews16 followers
September 4, 2014
This book was for me somewhere between 2 and 3 stars, but perhaps I'm mixed up about this because I still think people should read it. I was completely uninterested during the first quarter of the book, but something about its description made me want to push through. Probably because there hasn't been a book yet about people of the "far north" (all cultures from very northern,cold places) that hasn't fascinated me.
The book did get a lot better, if not less confusing. The story is narrated in alternating chapters by Kayuqtuq/Gretchen and Leif, who narrates through journal entries. I got lost a lot,frustrated and confused, and had to skip through a few sections.
The best part of the book was to see the clash of Gretchen (Inupiat Indian) and Leif's (Norwegian/French) cultures, even though it was painful to follow. Do you know when you read a chick-flick romance where there are a lot of funny misunderstandings? Well, these were not really funny misunderstandings at all. These two had a very hard time understanding each other. That's true love and dedication there...I personally would die of frustration with somebody who I can't connect with at all.
Gretchen is adopted, and she has a strange relationship with her adoptive family too. Do they love her? Don't they? How about the rest of the town? Gretchen makes it sound like everybody dislikes her but that doesn't seem to be the case.
I still have mixed feelings about this book, and it left me devastated, because after all the book is about tragedies...some which I won't discuss so I don't ruin the book for somebody else, but also environmental tragedies, the effect of alcohol on native americans, the lack of tolerance between different cultures and religions...

Profile Image for Dick Whittington.
625 reviews6 followers
February 15, 2016
At its core, this is a love story, and much, much more. A Seattle scientist from Norway studying the effects of an oil spill on bird nesting areas north of Nome, Alaska meets and falls in love with an Native American orphan adopted by the Inupiat. And the life and cultural differences between these two lovers forms the background for an amazing anthropological study. This is neither a quick nor an easy read, but it is an excellent read, written well, with well developed characters and plenty of unexpected and surprising twists.
Profile Image for Paula.
636 reviews1 follower
April 6, 2013
FINALLY. Took me a month but I finished it. It's not a boring book by any means, but it's not an easy read. There are a lot of references to Inuit & Canadian Indian language, customs & culture, so I think that made it such a slow go for me - I really had to pay attention to take it all in. Very interesting stuff, plus a unique love story in the midst of it all. This was one of the best free books I've gotten through Amazon Prime.
Profile Image for Val Wilkerson.
807 reviews18 followers
July 16, 2015
Best book about Alaska. Although it is fiction it is well researched, gives you great insight into
life in a small Alaskan Village. G is a young Alaskan woman, she was without a family when very young and she was taken into a family, who did not treat her right, and later she became a member of a good family. Birdman is a Norwegian biologist who comes to the village to study the birds for a summer. This is a beautiful story about what these 2 taught each other. Loved this book.
609 reviews10 followers
December 7, 2016
Truly one of the most unique books I've read in a long time. Fascinating but not a quick read.

Set in the northern most stretches of the Alaskan Arctic among the villages of the natives. The conflict between ancient customs and cultures as the modern white man comes to do scientific exploration in 1971. The connections and disconnections as two very different cultures try to survive and thrive. Extremely thought provoking.
Profile Image for jack.
112 reviews8 followers
March 3, 2008
really captivating read, once i got into it and got a handle on what was going on. i did end up staying up at night to see what would happen a few times. i fell in love with gretchen and birdman a little. tho this is fiction, it is probably close to what reality was like in alaska in the late 60's. a meeting of old and new.
Profile Image for Eric.
1 review1 follower
September 14, 2023
An epic novel set in the Arctic, Flight of the Goose has impressive anthropological detail and masterful command of language. The author takes us on a Romantic journey with a backdrop of the majestic tundra amid a layered conflict between cultures that are trying to balance their livelihoods and spirits between tradition and progress. A modern classic that I think would appeal to you if you enjoy the large R romanticism that looks at explores ideas, internal struggles and how those forge the human spirit.
Profile Image for Gerald McFarland.
322 reviews6 followers
May 11, 2016
A beautifully told tale of love that grows between two very different people from two very different cultures: Gretchen (her Inupiat name is Kayuqtuq, "red fox"), an indigenous Alaskan orphan who is an outsider in her own community and who aspires to be a shaman, and Leif, a mixed-race (Norwegian father, Native American mother) doctoral candidate in science from Seattle who is using his graduate-student status to avoid being drafted into military service during the Vietnam War (1971) and has come to study the potential effects of oil drilling on wildlife near the remote village where Gretchen lives. She is initially interested in him, but wary; he is curious, kind, and often baffled by her behavior towards him. Their relationship unfolds through her first-person narrative, which unselfconsciously overflows with her sensitivity, her intensity, and her spirit and informs everything she sees, understands, and does not understand. Pages from Leif's journal provide his perspective and his very different voice. The writing throughout is exceptionally fine, and the evocation of the culture Gretchen inhabits is detailed and subtle. The story's emotional impact is deep, and its spiritual insights are profound.
Profile Image for Sarah Sammis.
7,316 reviews219 followers
July 4, 2008
Flight of the Goose by Lesley Thomas is about a meeting of cultures: the good and the bad. The story is told from two points of view: Kayuqtuq Ugungoraseok (aka Gretchen) and Leif Trygvesen (aka Birdman).

Leif, an ornithologist, goes from being someone to be feared, to being an amusing oddity, to finally a respected member of the community. The process isn't easy for him or for Kayuqtuq who does most of the novel's narration.

Flight of the Goose takes its time. The story unfolds at its own pace and it is one to be read slowly and pondered over. Often times scenes will be played from both characters points of view: first one and the other. Other times both characters will sweep over huge chunks of time that were for one reason or another unimportant to them.

The novel is peppered with a number of Inupiaq words. There is a very useful glossary at the back of the novel. I liked having this resource on hand.

Overall I enjoyed the book. My only complaint is for the font chosen for Leif's diaries. It is a narrow sans-serif that is hard on the eyes compared to lovely font used for Kayuqtuq's parts.
Profile Image for alexana.
3 reviews2 followers
August 31, 2009
I gave this two stars which is supposed to be "it was ok" because, well, it was ok. I found it to be too long, and I was confused as to what the theme was... I just didn't really buy it.

I found that I wasn't rooting for either of the two main characters, which made it difficult for me to care about what was going on. I think part of the problem is that the novel is written from each of their points of view, and the first person perspectives, for me, didn't work in either of their favors. The novel ended up being way too much telling and not enough showing in regards to these two characters and their relationship (which is basically the crux of the novel). As a result, I liked and felt like I had a better understanding of several of the periphereal characters (Gretchen's adopted family members), which wasn't my feeling for the two main characters.

I wouldn't recommend this book for someone to read, unless that someone was really interested in Inupiat life in the 1970's. The setting and cultural nuances described were definitely the strengths of this novel, and if this is something you're specifically interested in exploring, then you might want to look into it.
13 reviews
August 27, 2014
Having spent most of the summer in Alaska, this book intrigued me as it told the story of native peoples and the impact of modern times. A difficult read at times, one which I probably wouldn't have stayed with except that our recent travels added to my interest, it definitely did provide much food for thought and a twist in perspective.
Profile Image for Terri Pate.
14 reviews
July 5, 2015
A poignantly sad story

This book appealed to my fascination with nature and ancient cultures. The cruel treatment of the dogs being starved hurt my heart, but I found the birdman and shaman's story touching.
Profile Image for Krissy.
15 reviews
April 18, 2009
A book I got from Chelsea and Kaela about a girl growing up in a village outside of Nome, AK.
4 reviews
August 10, 2023
A detailed story from two different perspectives, the outsider (the scientist) who wants to be a part of a community, and the insider (Native American) who wants to leave it. Both become lovers, or soulmates, and hold the first-person narrative in the book at various times.

The story felt epic and seemed that it could have ended sooner; there were several denouements. And the story could have become a drama instead of a tragedy had it ended after one of them. I glided over several paragraphs, knowing what was happening.

The author has lived in this area (Home, Alaska) and has a deep understanding of Inuit tribes and this shows in the writing. These tribes are heavily dependent upon non-human animals and plants to survive and there is a wistfulness for this way of life that has dwindled away by the pipeline.

It's not an easy or romantic read, and some parts of it are graphic and violent but most of that is visited upon non-human animals, because of human traditions, ignorance or power.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Linda Brunner.
485 reviews52 followers
November 19, 2020
Set during the Vietnam War era in a remote area of the Alaskan Arctic in an indigenous village visited by a research biologist from Seattle focused on a goose that is endangered. Spoken alternately by the voice of a Native American female shaman from the area and the young American biologist who visits as cultures clash and concern for the environment and a vanishing way of life play out.

An absorbing read peppered with Native language and infused with the mystical but in the end a love story and a human tragedy.

Wonderful descriptive language, the magic of shamanism connected to the natural world and issues that plague us today with good intention playing out against the machinations of corporations and their corrupt lackeys.
Profile Image for Irene.
508 reviews14 followers
October 5, 2019
I'd give this book 10 stars if I could. It's a novel with elements of memoir, set in 1971 in northwest Alaska, in a small Eskimo village. It includes characters who follow the old ways and younger people trying to deal with to the influence of the Outside world and climate change. It transported me completely to the fictional village, and I didn't want the book to end.
137 reviews
July 31, 2022
Really enjoyed it. Different in so many ways from other books I’ve read.
Profile Image for Ellen.
364 reviews
November 17, 2019
Whether you are obsessed with a rare goose or a white whale, can it possibly end well? And if you have been abused as a child is there hope for a life with love and laughter and belonging?
This is a hard story about people who are damaged and who strive to heal themselves with whatever their cultures can offer. The book is set in the 1970s in the middle of the Vietnam war and the draft. It is set in the Arctic and in a culture totally foreign to me--an inupiaq village on the coastal plains of Alaska. It is a fascinating and compelling saga of love and loss and how things we desperately need to thrive sometimes slip out of our grasp. An amazing story, beautiful and authentic.
317 reviews1 follower
September 4, 2015
Received this book from Goodreads Give Away.

This book was somewhat difficult for me to finish. I did not really enjoy the way the book was narrated. I had to keep looking to the glossary for definitions. The story line was just okay for me. Enjoyed parts, but found it very sad and depressing.

Not a great read for me. Too much work for me to read.
Profile Image for P.D..
Author 19 books31 followers
Want to read
November 19, 2008
My wife has been reading at this book for over a year now. She says she really, truly thinks it is a great book. But so many things have come up in the past year that she has not had the time to finish it. I might have to take it away from her to read it myself.
Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews

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