While Lupton’s novel of love and loyalty often stretches credibility, and her chief narrator--a 10-year-old deaf child--sometimes comes across as a bit irritating, the author makes the most of her beautiful and haunting landscapes.
In the wilderness of Alaska and the Arctic, darkness, silence, and grief converge on a woman forced to confront her demons and fears.
After landing in Fairbanks, Yasmin and her daughter, Ruby, learn that their beloved Matt has died. Ostensibly in Alaska to photograph
Arctic wildlife, Matt was staying at Anaktue, a small Eskimo town near the edge of the
Arctic circle. A catastrophic fire in the village left no survivors. The authorities have identified Matt by computerized visa records. All that is left is Matt’s wedding ring, which Lieutenant Reeve, the senior police officer assigned to the case, calmly gives to Yasmin with a plea to forget about the tragedy and return home to England.
Knifed by the sharpness of love’s pain, Yasmin is determined to prove her resilience. Almost at once she embarks into treacherous territory, recalling Matt, the handsome young man she had loved so passionately. With “the dead weight of grief suddenly settling upon her,” Yasmin looks at the tangled shreds of evidence, becoming
more and more convinced that Matt is still alive. As a storm rages over the blackened village of Anaktue, Yasmin forces herself to think calmly and rationally, as the scientist she once trained to be.
From outside the Fairbanks airport, Ruby sends emails to her father's satellite terminal, telling him that Mum is coming to get him. Yasmin works on her plan to take long trip north on the vast Dalton Highway, eventually hitching a ride from a friendly
Mideastern truck driver. From here, the journey turns into an eerie, perilous, endless trip through the ice and dark, Jasmine’s determination to find Matt driven by her love for him and her precious Ruby.
While Yasmin and Ruby’s journey gives tension to the novel, Lupton’s vivid
descriptions of the Arctic’s harsh winter landscape truly frame the story. The Dalton Highway is like “a ghost tunnel,” the road itself synonymous with cold and isolation.
Mother and daughter brave unfamiliar wilds, perhaps with a killer in resolute pursuit, his only presence in the form of eerie blue lights that seem always to stay static in the darkness. Yasmin is sure that someone is following her,
maybe coming to arrest her, even trying to stop her from getting to Matt.
Lupton writes a frightening, tense scenario where nature is both beautiful and pristine, but also rage-fuelled and indifferent. Yasmin swiftly finds herself driving the three-hundred ton truck on her own, forced to exist on adrenaline and bold-faced nerve. Driving further north into this vast Arctic wilderness, each passing hour becomes more and more intimidating.
The ever-resourceful Ruby finds a way to utilize technology to put them on a direct path toward Matt. Their isolation is a study in resilience, the winter no match for them as Yasmin is forced to make a choice between continuing on to Matt’s last location or returning to the relative safety
of Fairbanks. The consequences of both haunt the edges of Yasmin’s mind “like a dark shape in the shadows.”
From violent emails that suddenly appear on Ruby’s laptop to a dangerous winter blizzard, everything
lends more weight to the belief that Matt is still alive. As the characters bear down
on a chilling showdown in the raging cold and dark, Matt finally tells of the fracking horrors permeating the unspoiled Alaskan territories. While the last third
of the novel loses the suspense a bit, Lupton knows how to write a good thriller.
This story is as unyielding and bleak as the immense Arctic winter darkness in which it is set.