cover image The Land of Feast and Famine

The Land of Feast and Famine

Helge Ingstad. McGill-Queen's University Press, $95 (360pp) ISBN 978-0-7735-0911-5

Before renowned Norwegian explorer Ingstad discovered the site of Leif Erickson's North American landfall, he spent the years from 1926 to 1930 living the adventurer's life, trapping fur in the Canadian tundra. This wondrous book, long out of print, transports readers to that time and place. The rhythms that govern life in the North resonate in the reader: the challenge to survive day after day blizzards and weather that never rises above -40, the aches resulting from breaking trails in the tundra, the rejoicing when a migrating herd of caribou--the area's main food source--is finally spotted by a ravenous hunting party and the marvels of nature's variety, from a wolf-howl symphony to the landscape's majesty. If there is any flaw here it is the stereotypes about Indians and Eskimos prevalent at the time. Yet Ingstad's narrative mitigates even these unfortunate characterizations, making them seem naive rather than evil, and adds to the sense that we have lost a pk northland utopia that tested every man fairly and equally and where the only real question was whether the caribou would come. (Apr.)