cover image Inukshuk


Gregory Spatz. Bellevue Literary (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-934137-42-0

Shadowed by the Inuit word for stones resembling "a human form," a marker to reassure that "Someone was here," Spatz (No One But Us) portrays a discordant family crippled by emotional and physical distance. John Franklin's wife has abandoned him and their son Thomas for nonprofit work in the Arctic. In an attempt to start anew, John and Thomas relocate to Canada, where they struggle to connect with one another, but ultimately withdraw into themselves. John is lonely, imbalanced, and stuck in a "miserable, prolonged hanging-on." He turns to poetry and strikes up an affair, but flounders as a disciplinarian%E2%80%94both in his job as a high school teacher, and as a suddenly single father. Meanwhile, Thomas%E2%80%94a 15 year old with "a remote, demented stare, stiff-legged pirate-boy walk, [and] perennial sniffling%E2%80%94" obsesses over Sir John Franklin's doomed early 19th-century bid for the Northwest Passage, going so far as to induce scurvy in himself. Thomas's fixation functions as a heartbreaking figuration of his desire to transcend his family's problems, reconnect with his mother, and secure his father's attention and care. Taking place over the course of just a few days, this tale of familial dysfunction is carefully interwoven with the historical retelling of Sir Franklin's quest, resulting in a layered journey that is hauntingly honest and emotionally resonant. (June)