The Longest Winter

Julie Harris, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (306p) ISBN 978-0-312-13115-9
Australian Harris's first novel is a compelling fictional biography of John Robert Shaw, a South Carolinian who crashed his plane on an uncharted island somewhere north of Anchorage in 1926 and spent 17 years living among the Eskimos who rescued him and nursed his broken body (he lost his left arm in the crash) back to a semblance of health. How much of the account is based on real events is unclear, but the tale that unfolds, mostly through Shaw's narration, is memorable. Even as the downed aviator adjusts to his new life with Kioki, the Eskimo woman he comes to love and to have children with, Shaw finds refuge from his stark, unforgiving surroundings in memories of his past life: of his lonely, widowed mother; of his sister Meg, an erstwhile ballerina struck down by polio; of Billy Taylor, the father figure who taught him to fly; of Bobby Sullivan, the best friend who died in his arms after a crash; of Sally, the woman with whom he shared a single night during his doomed flight but whom he can never forget. This moving novel is about courage and growth and survival, about how Shaw comes to love the barren world in which he at first feels trapped and abandoned. Concluding with two dramatic homecomings, it makes an unforgettable story. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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