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No Man's River    by Farley Mowat order for
No Man's River
by Farley Mowat
Order:  USA  Can
Carroll & Graf, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Farley Mowat, author of thirty-eight books, is beyond doubt a master storyteller. Though he writes of his travels, his books are in no way travelogues. They are accounts of places he has been - remote places where the average traveler would not begin to even consider journeying. Think Siberia. Or, in this case, the Arctic. No Man's River, which describes time spent in that region, is considered the bridge book between two of Farley Mowat's classics: Never Cry Wolf and People of the Deer.

In No Man's River, Mowat chronicles his adventures in 1947 in northern Manitoba. After serving in the Canadian infantry during World War II, he felt he needed a more peaceful life and headed north to Hudson's Bay country. Not my idea of the ideal place to go, but the Arctic territory was the right place for him. Though Mowat found a life that was not as brutal as his wartime experience, it was certainly as full of deprivation and hardship as any war. He signed on with a scientific expedition consisting of one scientist and himself, just to get to the north. Once there, he realized he couldn't live and work with the scientist, who proved to be a self-absorbed man intent on doing his job - only his job.

With no humor or camaraderie or sensitivity for others forthcoming from the work-obsessed man, Mowat fell in with an unusual family - the Schweders. One of the Schweder sons and Mowat determined it was their duty to help the poverty stricken Indians and Eskimos. In remote areas, they were in desparate straits and being ignored by the government. Mowat and Schweder took it upon themselves to deliver goods to various areas around Hudson's Bay. Trials and tribulations beyond the average person's ken only drove these two men harder to accomplish their tasks. But the journey wasn't all misery. They saw thousands of migrating caribou in full flow, and enjoyed watching birds in flight through the crisp air. Even had a pair of hawks choose them as their parents.

Mowat's writing is engrossing. He tells his tale just as it was; not asking for approbation or sympathy. He brought the cold and hunger into my life and made real the account of an unusual man's journey into the wild, and his empathy with what he found there.

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