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The Seal Wife    by Kathryn Harrison order for
Seal Wife
by Kathryn Harrison
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2003 (2002)

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* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

A young man is sent to Alaska to report weather data. His loneliness is assuaged by his affair with an Aleut woman. He experiments with a kite as a data-gathering apparatus, having to build it from scratch except for the instruments he has to mount on it. He becomes obsessed by the kite and by the Aleut. However, after a time she disappears, and he thinks he will go mad. Then she returns.

This unusual and sparely written novel contains much that is interesting about the life and people in Alaska in those mining days of World War I. And the author has succeeded very well in depicting male desire. But the story is disappointing because of one of its premises: lack of communication from the various females, especially the Aleut. We are given no idea of her motivation, her past, her disappearance and reappearance, and I think that is neither very realistic nor does it make the story hang together very well.

Though some of my book group find ties to the Celtic legend of the seal wife, it just didn't work for me.

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