THE NAVIGATOR OF NEW YORK
The race to get to the North Pole frames a young explorer's effort to unearth his family history in Johnston's latest, a captivating narrative that delves into both the noble and the seedier aspects of the human need to discover and explore. Devlin Stead is the orphaned protagonist raised by his aunt and uncle in Newfoundland after his physician father dies in a polar expedition under the aegis of Robert Edwin Peary and Dr. Frederick Cook. The boy's sheltered existence is shattered when he receives a series of letters from Cook that reveal the explorer—who had committed an indiscretion with Devlin's mother—to be the boy's real father. Cook invites Devlin to New York, where he takes him under his wing and makes him his assistant. Their strange relationship culminates when father and son journey to Greenland to rescue the stubborn Peary, who has become stranded while trying to reach the pole and refuses to give up and return. Devlin then becomes deeply involved in Cook's effort to beat Peary to the pole, participating in Cook's infamous 1908 attempt that was decried as a hoax. Johnston (The Colony of Unrequited Dreams; Baltimore's Mansion, etc.) occasionally gets overly caught up in the details of Devlin's murky personal history yet delivers a satisfying character study, and the polar explorations generate considerable narrative tension when the family subplot flattens out. Johnston's ability to illuminate historical settings and situations continues to grow with each book, and this powerful effort is his best to date. (Oct.)
Forecast: The Colony of Unrequited Dreams was heralded as a stellar example of the Newfoundland novel—impressive, considering the quality of the offerings in that small but flourishing subgenre. The Navigator of New York has the potential to bump Johnston up a notch, so long as readers and reviewers don't tire of the scenery.
Release date: 10/01/2002