cover image The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

Howard Norman / Author Summit Books $17.45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671

Noah Krainik is a teenager growing up in the 1950s, but this is not the usual'50s coming-of-age story. Noah lives in the northern reaches of Canada with his mother, his cousin Charlotte and, occasionally, his map-making, peripatetic father. It's 90 miles to Quill, the nearest village, where Noah spends summers with his best and only friend, a boy named Pelly Bay. In the fall, with a new shortwave radio from his father, Noah tunes in to Quill to hear that Pelly has just drowned while riding a unicycle on the iced-over lake. The following summer, Noah is invited to stay with Pelly's family; while he is away, his mother and cousin, long without a visit from the father, suddenly decide to move to Toronto. Months later, Noah follows and begins an adjustment to urban life that includes fixing up and working on The Northern Lights, an old movie theater his mother has bought. Luminous with restrained emotion, this first novel conveys with quiet authority Noah's acceptance of Pelly's death and his father's erratic presence. In it, place is as immediate as Noah, his family and Cree Indian friends, whose inner rectitude strongly influences the boy's understanding of life. (March 25)