Synopses & Reviews
Jill Fredston has traveled more than twenty thousand miles of the Arctic and sub-Arctic-backwards. With her ocean-going rowing shell and her husband, Doug Fesler, in a small boat of his own, she has disappeared every summer for years, exploring the rugged shorelines of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Spitsbergen, and Norway. Carrying what they need to be self-sufficient, the two of them have battled mountainous seas and hurricane-force winds, dragged their boats across jumbles of ice, fended off grizzlies and polar bears, been serenaded by humpback whales and scrutinized by puffins, and reveled in moments of calm.
As Fredston writes, these trips are "neither a vacation nor an escape, they are a way of life." Rowing to Latitude is a lyrical, vivid celebration of these northern journeys and the insights they inspired. It is a passionate testimonial to the extraordinary grace and fragility of wild places, the power of companionship, the harsh but liberating reality of risk, the lure of discovery, and the challenges and joys of living an unconventional life.
"In unremarkable prose, an intrepid adventurer recounts her rowboat experiences contending with some of the earth's most beautiful and treacherous waters....Lots of miles, bears, and high winds for a little volume, and therein lies one of the problems. Each of these trips offers enough material to fill a book, so there's a pervasive sense of incompleteness, a rush to load another boat and shove it out into the water before we've really figured out, or even thought much, about where we are. Pretty soon we don't care. Fredston cannot resist telling us what wonderful condition she is in, how quickly she learns, how cool she is under fire....But the most serious problem is her writing, which rarely breaks the surface of conventionality: 'Most days were a rich collage'; 'the country is a study in contrasts'; and so on. Extraordinary trips; ordinary writing." Kirkus Reviews
"In this lyrical look at rowing some of the world's most isolated and pristine coasts, Fredston focuses as much on her personal experience and her relationship with her husband, Doug Fesler, as she does on their actual journeys....Her description of the physical act of rowing is rapturous, even sensual....Fredston seems less at ease relating her mother's battle with cancer, near the book's end. Still, the book soars....A must-read for armchair travelers, as well as a close and loving look at an intimate relationship." Publishers Weekly
"After several seasons of being barraged by books about disaster and death in the wilderness, Rowing to Latitude comes as a breath of fresh air. Fredston describes experiences as close to the edge of catastrophe as any adventure book, but she rides them all out with grace, judgment and muscle, and her self-awareness, humor and feeling for the animals, landscapes, and forces around her make for great nature writing. While disaster books confirm our decision to stay on the sofa, Rowing to Latitude will make most of us wish we were Fredston, on open water above the Arctic Circle. She moves through her subject as she moves along coastlines like a seal through the sea." Rebecca Solnit, author of Wanderlust: A History of Walking
"A tale of personal adventure told with fidelity, insight, and poetry. What literature is all about!" Richard Bode, author of First You Have to Row a Little Boat
"As with most trips, Rowing to Latitude
rewards you when you finally get to where you're going. Fredston makes you see wilderness as a more precious commodity than you thought, and inspires you to stretch your limits physically and mentally."
--Lynne McNeil, The San Diego Union-Tribune
"An honest and self-aware woman's record of her unusual life...a shrewd analytical look at human existence as a balance of danger and joy."
--Judith Niemi, The Women's Review of Books
--Gail Caldwell, The Boston Globe
"The book is far more¿than an adventure travel narrative. It also is deeply personal memoir and love story."
--Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune
"[Fredston] sticks to telling good stories about battling, on primitive terms, the weather, the water, the land, the animals and some of the demons that haunt us all."
--Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News
"[Fredston] provides armchair travelers with a vivid portrait of wilderness rowing...full of intriguing personal digressions and moments of high drama." --John Freeman, The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Jill Fredston and her husband, Doug Fesler, are avalanche experts and co-directors of the Alaska Mountain Safety Center. When they are not rowing, they live near Anchorage.