Monday, May 7, 2012

Book Thoughts: Arnannguaq's Prize

Arnannguaq's Prize & Stories from Greenland by Chris Paton is as moving and riveting as Peter Høeg's 1993 bestseller Smilla's Sense of Snow.  A similar gritty edge exists in both works that viscerally grabs you and pulls you along through the story.


Âjak and his brother, Tulugaq, are on a hunt for bear meat.  They are in the Artic which is a character in and of itself.  Each moment they are out in this element they are in danger because of the frigid and hostile environment.

Âjak's team of dogs pulls he and his brother inexorably closer to a nanoq (an ice bear) and the dogs are in a frenzy.  After a verbal tussle, the brothers agree to release the dogs so they can attack the bear before it escapes -- success!  The bear is down and the men and the dogs partake of hot fresh bear meat to replenish their energies.

During this downtime, the reader learns that Tulugaq is a shaman and a matter of love weighs heavily on Âjak's mind and he asks his brother to scry for him.  Reticent, Tulugaq agrees.  What he sees changes the course of both men's lives in very short order creating a ripple effect in their village.

The tension is palpable and the story arc, very unlike American tales, is not at all what you expect!  Throw the action-thriller out of your mind for this story and be open to new ways of story development.

In reading both stories by Paton and Høeg about characters from Greenland, the similarity I see is that both authors pull from the same cultural milieu which shapes the stories into works of art that are beautifully complex and foreign to many Western readers.  In addition to learning the thought progression and emotional patina of a group of people that is not constantly in the public eye, the reader gets a bird's eye view of one of the most pristine undeveloped areas in our world.

This is a fast, quick read which takes less than a half hour to breeze through but the story will stay with you for some time to come.

Rating: 4 Blogairy Notebooks

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