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True North: A Journey into Unexplored…
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True North: A Journey into Unexplored Wilderness

by Elliott Merrick

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Christopher recommended this to me. In about 1930 Merrick and his wife, in the full vigor of youth, repeatedly trudged upriver on snowshoes and finally got to the 'tilt' after dark to gather wood for the tin stove; interacted with the natives; had stamina competitions with Labradorean friends; and eschewed (at least temporarily) city life for a more elemental existence in nature (echoes of _Walden_). Merrick kept a journal, and _True North_ is the fascinating result. ( )
  jpe9 | Nov 5, 2014 |
I haven't finished it but I notice that if one doesn't type something into the review box then one doesn't usually win another first-read. Unless one is Chris Wilson, who defies all rules and logic to win freakin' first-read after first-read (we hates him for that). I've been sitting on this one for a long time, reading it slowly. Some thoughts to place here, so that I can maybe have a chance at winning more books again:

- this dude lived out a childhood dream I've had since reading Gentle Ben, leaving all the cities and roads behind to live up north

- his view of the native peoples was disturbing. it's like the conflicted feelings society seems to have generally about poverty, where aww we should help them but they're all criminals so they need to keep away.

- nature is so damned beautiful

- not much about his wife

- while I'm jealous of his adventure, I'm also a bit irritated that he did this. Like this dude: [b:American Shaolin: One Man's Quest to Become a Kung Fu Master|1116851|American Shaolin One Man's Quest to Become a Kung Fu Master|Matthew Polly|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1181139409s/1116851.jpg|200605].
  EhEh | Apr 3, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In 1929 Elliott Merrick gave up his advertising job and headed to Labrador, Canada. [True North] is his diary from his 1930 trip with the local trappers and his wife. The writing ranges from philosophical musings to straightforward accounts of day to day activities. Generally I enjoyed the narrative, though there were a couple of places where I felt the things he was talking about did not mesh well – for instance the professed love and respect for nature while at the same time working with trappers who kill animals for fashion purposes. However, there were a lot of interesting tidbits about the daily life and some beautiful descriptions of the landscape. A nice passage at the end of the book when the trappers are preparing for their next hunt:

“…when they start again in winter, the first few days are unadulterated misery. It is a little like going to war. Toward the beginning of February all the trappers figuratively tighten their belts and clench the muscles of their jaws. It is time to start back into the woods again on the long, bitter haul to the furring grounds. Each man is conscious of an enormous presence that begins just back of the house, the wilderness that is waiting. He hates it and loves it; he fears it and defies it and understands its grimness and its bounty. His utmost endurance and the fortitude that is a steel-strong habit in the long days will not change its sphinxlike face by so much as an ice crystal. But in the mystery of paradoxical sensations that the wilderness rouses, each man senses that he has been made whatever he is by the great Unknowable where he is going. It cares not whether it kills him or makes him rich, but he knows the great Unknowable well enough to have borrowed and armed himself with a little of its own immortal carelessness.”

Note: I received this through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. ( )
1 vote janemarieprice | Aug 5, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Period piece that focuses the author's rejection of life within the confines of civilization on his experiences in the far northeast of Canada in the 1930's. Written in a strong and authoritative voice, the author know who he is, and he's not one of those sedentary folk cast from a mold. He describes in thorough detail the natural world and the means of surviving in a sparsely populated and forbidding but beautiful realm. To my taste, a bit dogmatic,but with lovely prose. Undeniably a vivid lucid picture of a world ago.

The final lines illustrate: "We lay our fingers in the water and dig our bare feet deeper into the sand to be closer to the earth's heart, we love it so. And a feeling of gladness and sorrow comes over the water to us like a wave: gladness that the earth is so free and wide and life-giving and generous; sorrow that so many millions of men are unhappy, neither knowing nor caring for these things."
  stellarexplorer | Aug 2, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I requested this book from the Early Reviewer's offerings because of the outdoors and adventure aspects of the book. As a modern backpacker, it is interesting to read about Elliott Merrick's adventures into the Labradorean winter wilderness with the local people who derive their living by trapping in this same wilderness. Their equipment was rudimentary and spare. Their food supply was meager. Their spirits were indomitable.

Merrick came from a privileged background into this wilderness. He came to Labrador equipped with an expensive education, a comfortable upbringing, and an upper middle class career. All of this he eschews in favor of this spare life in the wilderness with his wife, Kate, a nurse who came to Labrador from Australia.

The book is written as journal entries made primarily on the winter trapping trip. He and Kate have been brought along by John, the local trip leader. The couple suffer many hardships on the trip: Merrick wounds his foot with an axe and at another time accidentally shoots himself in the thigh. The entries are also scattered with anecdotes about the locals which have been shared around camp stoves in the evenings.

I suspect that the local Labradoreans on the trip had their share of anecdotes about this couple's journey into the wilderness as well. At times I thought they might have made more entertaining reading.

It's clear that Merrick loved the outdoors and nature. It is also clear that he has a huge chip on his shoulder about those who lived a more modern life of the time. Or perhaps the writing reflects a 24 year old, who has yet to mature into a more balanced view of life.

The book is an interesting read, though Merrick is no Jon Krakauer. Nor is he equal to some of the other fine outdoor writers of the current day. ( )
  tangledthread | Jun 26, 2010 |
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This inspiring memoir recounts a couple's winter-long hunting trek with native trappers through the snowy wilderness of the Labrador region in the Canadian arctic. Covering 300 miles over a harsh winter, they experienced an unexplored realm of nature at its most intense, and mishaps abound.… (more)

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