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To The Bright Edge of the World
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October 2016: Historical Fiction > To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey -- 5 stars + ♥

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message 1: by Nicole R (last edited Oct 18, 2016 05:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7756 comments To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
5 stars + ♥

Ivey's first novel, The Snow Child was a Pulitzer finalist. How do you follow that up? By crafting a story that retains the lyrical prose and touch of magical realism, but completely changes the premise of the story.

With her sophomore novel, Ivey returns us to her native land of Alaska, transporting us to 1885 when Col. Allen Forrester leads an Army expedition to explore the Wolverine River. This portion of the story is based loosely on the real-life exploration of the Cooper River by Lt. Henry T. Allen, but that is where the similarities end.

While Col. Forrester heads to Alaska from the Washington Territory, his pregnant wife, Sophie remains behind to await his return. Sophie is a burgeoning feminist who insists on living alone instead of moving in with an older Army couple, and purchases a camera for wildlife photography of birds that launches a rare career. Told in alternating perspectives in the form of journal entries and letters, we follow the Colonel and Sophie through just short of one year of their lives, and they each face personal challenges while never truly knowing what the other one is doing...or even if the other is still alive.

Sprinkled in are other perspectives: letters from a distant relative of the Forresters who is corresponding with a museum curator in Alaska, newspaper announcements, flashbacks to the Colonel's previous Army experience, and more. Add to that a rich cast of secondary characters and I could not get enough of this book!

Perhaps my favorite part was just the dash of magical realism that Ivey adds to her stories. Similar to The Snow Child, the magical realism is so subtle and so entwined with Alaskan native folklore that you waver on the edge of rationalizing these events as delusions and believing in the unknown. Women who transform into geese, babies born of tree roots, a woman who murders her adulterous otter husband, and an old medicine man who has lived for centuries and can transform into a raven, to highlight some of my favorite. The incorporation of folklore gives us a brief glimpse to that culture when Alaska was not yet settled by homesteaders.

And, the icing on the cake, it is part Arctic survival story and part feminist manifesto. Oh! And part surly old man in present day who melts my heart.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Though, while the audio is very well done, I do not recommend listening unless you have a companion copy of the book because I missed out on the maps and pictures.

Jgrace | 2809 comments I'm so glad you liked it. I thought it was wonderful, but I'm afraid it will come in as a close second to A Gentleman in Moscow for my favorite book this year. It feels a bit disloyal to this book which I loved so much.

And I hope you did get to look at the maps and pictures.

message 3: by Barbara M (new) - added it

Barbara M (barbara-m) | 2219 comments Thanks for the heads up on the audio vs the print. I don't like to miss any illustration and that's not usually a problem, but every once in a while I get caught without them.

Nicole D. | 1482 comments I need to look for this.

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7756 comments Jgrace wrote: "I thought it was wonderful, but I'm afraid it will come in as a close second to A Gentleman in Moscow for my favorite book this year...."

I am starting Gentleman on the way home tonight!

 Olivermagnus (lynda214) | 2019 comments I just picked this up and am really looking forward to it.

message 7: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy | 8505 comments I am starting gentleman tonight too... It arrives in the ms today. Seconds ago - finished Hot Milk. Review to soon follow.

Denizen (den13) | 1138 comments I just finished it this evening. It was a 4.5 star book for me rounded down to 4. I love how Ivey can make Alaska come alive.

message 9: by Regina Lindsey (new)

Regina Lindsey | 1005 comments I ADORED The Snow Child. I'm not normally a fan of magical realism except for some reason Sarah Addison (I think it is the small town settings that make me want to snuggle up with a mug of hot chocolate like the one I got in NH and remember my grandparent's place). But, the subtle nature combined with the evocative setting and fantastic story was a winner with me (Plus, I simply couldn't resist the Russian mythology touch). Adding this to my TBR

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