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Inukshuk by Gregory Spatz


by Gregory Spatz

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4420420,405 (3.14)21
"An elaborate tale of family and the paths people take to understanding." --Seattle Times "[This] mix of well-researched history and contemporary fiction makes for a fine, sad read." --MinneapolisStar Tribune "Hauntingly honest and emotionally resonant." --Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Gregory Spatz's prose is as clean and sparkling as a new fall of snow." --JANET FITCH, author ofWhite Oleander andPaint it Black "At its heartInukshuk is about family. But Spatz has transfigured this beautifully told, wise story with history and myth, poetry and magic into something rarer, stranger and altogether amazing. A book that points unerringly true north." --KAREN JOY FOWLER, author ofThe Jane Austen Book Club andWit's End John Franklin has moved his fifteen-year-old son to the remote northern Canadian town of Houndstitch to make a new life together after his wife, Thomas' mother, left them. Mourning her disappearance, John, a high school English teacher, writes poetry and escapes into an affair, while Thomas withdraws into a fantasy recreation of the infamous Victorian-era arctic expedition led by British explorer Sir John Franklin. With teenage bravado, Thomas gives himself scurvy so that he can sympathize with the characters in the film of his mind--and is almost lost himself. While told over the course of only a few days, this gripping tale slips through time, powerfully evoking a modern family in distress and the legendary "Franklin's Lost Expedition" crew's descent into despair, madness, and cannibalism aboard theHMS Erebus andHMS Terror on the Arctic tundra. Gregory Spatz is the author of the novelsInukshuk, Fiddler's Dream, andNo One But Us, and the short fiction collectionsWonderful Tricks andHalf as Happy. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and recipient of a Washington State Book Award, he teaches at Eastern Washington University in Spokane and plays the fiddle and tours with Mighty Squirrel and the internationally acclaimed bluegrass band John Reischman and The Jaybirds.… (more)

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Weird. I wanted to like this and I read most of it but I ended up not finishing because it was just kind of strange. I don't know a lot about John Franklin and I'm not sure this was the right venue to start.
  bostonbibliophile | Mar 4, 2014 |
This is the story of John Franklin, a single-parent teacher in northern Alberta. His oldest son is away at univeristy, leaving John to raise fifteen-yeard-old Thomas. Both John and Thomas are still recovering from the departure of Jane, who has left her husband and children to work in the Arctic. Their "expedition" into this new family dynamic seems as doomed as the famous Franklin search for the Northwest Passage. In fact, Thomas is obsessed with that expedition, to the point of trying to contract scurvy in other to better identify with the explorers.

The Franklin expedition provides an interesting backdrop, or frame, for the modern-day story. John and Thomas are well developed characters, and their relationship is well portrayed. I found the writing style a bit challenging, though. Long paragraphs and/or sentences, and jumps in point of view that sometimes left me playing catch up. ( )
  LynnB | Feb 1, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Is it just me or are we in the 21st century becoming fascinated by the attempts made to discover the North-West Passage and especially the story of Sir John Franklin? I know I learned a bit about this in school (many years ago) but in the past decade it seems like every year, at least, another book comes out about Franklin or other explorers who tried to find the North-West Passage. This Wikipedia article has a list of books but I know it misses some that I have read:
Darkness at the Stroke of Noon by Dennis Murphy
Race to the Polar Sea: The Heroic Adventures of Elisha Kent Kane by Ken McGoogan

This book views the Franklin Expedition through the eyes of a teenaged boy, Thomas Franklin. Thomas is fascinated by the details of the expedition. He has plans for a movie and he's drawn extensive pictures as a story board. He even is trying to replicate the conditions experienced by the men on the journey to the point of not eating anything with vitamin C so that he can get scurvy. Thomas is a pretty strange boy but he also has normal teenage hormonal urges. So when his younger female neighbour invites him into her house they start to fool around.

Meanwhile, Thomas' father, a school teacher, is struggling with his own emotions. His wife has left him to work in the north and he's not sure if he wants to try to reconcile or if he should act on his attraction to the mother of a student.

The whole book takes place over a short period of time, most of it just in 2 days, but it seems longer because there is so much packed into it. Both Thomas and his father seemed very realistic to me. In fact, I really wanted to shake some sense into both of them. By the end of the book they each have an epiphany about their life and I was glad about that. However, I was left feeling slightly disappointed by the whole book in terms of how it dealt with the Franklin Expedition. I know that there are still questions about where it went and what happened to the people on it and I suppose this book is as good a supposition as any. I just felt that it kind of petered out after exploring the minutest details.

Nevertheless I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious about that chapter in our history or who likes to read about the emotional lives of men and boys. ( )
  gypsysmom | Nov 2, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Gregory Spatz's second novel Inukshuk is a mesmerizing story of a father and a son, one where the teenager goes to great lengths to recreate the ill-fated Franklin Arctic expedition (even going so far as to his attempt to give himself scurvy).

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Taking place over the course of just a few days, this tale of familial dysfunction is carefully interwoven with the historical retelling of Sir Franklin's quest, resulting in a layered journey that is hauntingly honest and emotionally resonant."

visit largeheartedboy for a great perspective: http://www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2012/08/book_notes_greg_4.html ( )
  Booktrovert | Oct 5, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The author's writing style is very off-putting and made the book a hard one to enjoy. Page long rambling paragraphs were common place and boring. The interspersing of movie script about the John Franklin expedition was equally dull, poorly realized, and detracted from the story more than it added.

There were elements of success - inter-family turmoil, coming-of-age strife, self-realization and the like - but they never aligned which was unfortunate. ( )
  TiffanyHickox | Sep 26, 2012 |
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He was on lunch duty when it happened, jacketless because of the Chinook wind and composing in his head a line or two about the color of the sky reflected in the wet school-yard pavement, the ice-rimmed, quickly vanishing puddles, clouds whipping past upside down ... sun oil water.
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John Franklin has moved his fifteen-year-old son to the remote northern Canadian town of Houndstitch to make a new life together after his wife, Thomas’ mother, left them. Mourning her disappearance, John writes poetry and escapes into an affair, while Thomas, isolated and bullied, withdraws into a fantasy recreation of the infamous Victorian-era arctic expedition led by British explorer Sir John Franklin.

A poignant tale of the vulnerability of adolescence interspersed with powerfully evoked scenes of the legendary Franklin crew’s descent into despair, madness, and cannibalism on the Arctic tundra, Inukshuk offers readers a modern family drama as well as a compelling historical adventure.
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