STARRED REVIEW
August 2016

Blending history and myth

By Eowyn Ivey
Magical realism may most frequently be associated with Latin-American literature, but Pulitzer Prize finalist Eowyn Ivey (The Snow Child) has proven that the technique works equally well in novels set in distinctly chillier locales. Her second novel, To the Bright Edge of the World, is a spellbinding tale of adventure that blends myth and historical fiction and takes readers into the heart of the untamed wilderness of the Alaskan frontier.
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BookPage Fiction Top Pick, August 2016

Magical realism may most frequently be associated with Latin-American literature, but Pulitzer Prize finalist Eowyn Ivey (The Snow Child) has proven that the technique works equally well in novels set in distinctly chillier locales. Her second novel, To the Bright Edge of the World, is a spellbinding tale of adventure that blends myth and historical fiction and takes readers into the heart of the untamed wilderness of the Alaskan frontier.

Told through private diary entries, newspaper clippings, government reports, personal letters and more, the patchwork-quilt narrative results in a fully immersive reading experience that draws readers deep into 19th-century Alaska. It’s 1885, and Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester has been asked by the U.S. government to travel north along the Wolverine River and survey the surrounding land and its peoples. Along with a small company of soldiers, Allen embarks on a grueling foray into an unforgiving terrain. His reports detail the harsh conditions the group experiences and are firmly grounded in this world; however, his journal and letters to his wife, Sophie, shed a different light on the events, describing encounters with the local indigenous people that have a decidedly supernatural bent. The deeper his team moves into the Alaskan backcountry, the more the wilderness exposes their own primal natures. Meanwhile, feeling stifled by the small-minded community back home, Sophie embarks on her own journey of self-discovery.

Filled with love, loss, grief and joy, To the Bright Edge of the World is a cracking adventure that pulses with emotional power and a brutal kind of beauty. Though the story is filled with tender correspondence between Allen and Sophie, the book itself stands as a love letter from Ivey to her home state: Even at their most harrowing, her descriptions of Alaska’s sweeping wilds are breathtaking and evocative. With rich prose, compelling characters and elegant storytelling, To the Bright Edge of the World brings history and folklore to life in a visceral and utterly beguiling way.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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