Long Shadows

Susan Saxton D'Aoust, Author
Susan Saxton D'Aoust, Author Dutton Books $19.95 (401p) ISBN 978-0-525-24678-7
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
Prodigious research and passionate identification with the land and the people she portrays make first novelist D'Aoust's Arctic saga, set in ice-bound Alaska, a page-turner. The MacTavish family, on whom the story focuses, is as oddly assorted as any in literature. Scottish Angus, at 67 still setting his salmon nets, is married to Cheok, an Eskimo woman 40 years his junior, who has borne him five children and is unwillingly pregnant with the sixth. Stewart, the eldest, bitterly resentful of his father's beatings, runs away, leaving 12-year-old Ellen, Angus's ``wee blue goose,'' to take his place on the boats. The action veers between Stewart's hair's-breadth escapes from death in the untracked north and Ellen's frantic efforts at home to haul in the lines, care for the younger children and cajole her parents into letting her go away to high school. Eventually she succeeds, and meets Dr. Jason West, who confirms in her the desire to become a doctor. With the onset of war, Ellen is studying in Seattle, Jason is tending the wounded in a clinic nearby and Stewart is flying supplies to the Aleutians. Although Ellen's passion for Jason is not always convincing, the reader's interest in the complications of her and Stewart's lives never flags. This is a masterly debut, significant for its authenticity and the author's contagious love for the people and places she creates. (September)
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