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The Seal Wifeby Kathryn Harrison
Synopses & Reviews
Stunning, hypnotic, spare, The Seal Wife is the masterly new novel by Kathryn Harrison, "a writer of extraordinary gifts" (Tobias Wolff). Set in Alaska in 1915, it tells the story of a young scientist's consuming love for a woman known as the Aleut, a woman who never speaks, who refuses to reveal so much as her name.
Born and educated in midwestern cities, Bigelow is sent north by the United States government to establish a weather observatory in Anchorage. But what could have prepared him for the loneliness of a railroad town with more than two thousand men and only a handful of women, or for winter nights twenty hours long? And what can protect him from obsession — obsession with a woman who seems in her silence and mystery to possess the power to destroy his life forever, and obsession with the weather kite he invents, a kite he hopes will fly higher than any has ever flown before and will penetrate the secrets of the heavens?
A novel of passions both dangerous and generative, The Seal Wife explores the nature of desire and its ability to propel an individual beyond himself and convention. As she brilliantly reimagines the terrain of the Alaskan frontier during the period of the First World War, Harrison, a "master of her material" (Mary Gordon), also evokes early efforts to chart the weather and reveals the interior realm of the psyche and emotions — a human landscape that, in its splendor and terror, is profoundly and eerily reminiscent of the frozen frontier and the storms that scour its face.
"[Harrison] has a real talent for conjuring far-flung times and places — a patient zeal for assembling odd, telling details that convey the look and feel of a particular era. Her novels are intricately wrought, displaying ample evidence of her subtle intellingence. The novel?s awareness of the natural world gives it a sturdier, more philosophical underpinning — Harrison imbues her solitary silence with a stately air of self-posession." Maria Russo, The New York Times Book Review
"[A] darkly passionate tale of a distant time and dramatic place." Glamour Magazine
"Lyrical passage....Reads like profound poetry....Turns out to be a rather wonderful surprise, the most enterprising and successful portrait of a man in heat by a female writer since Joyce Carol Oates? tumultuously orgasmic What I Lived For." Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
A novel of passion by the author of "The Kiss" and "The Binding Chair, The Seal Wife" tells the story of a young scientist in 1915 Alaska and his consuming love for a woman known as the Aleut.
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