Publishers Weekly, 2002-02-18 Few Arctic exploration books offer a more compelling subject than Nickerson's account of Tookoolito, an Inuit woman she holds largely responsible for the survival of half the Polaris crew, who were stranded on an ice floe and abandoned by their ship in 1871. The book traces Tookoolito's life through the writings of the Polaris's original captain, Francis Hall, and George Tyson, the man in charge of the ice-floe party (who became Captain Tyson after Hall's mysterious demise). The story is engaging if slightly overwritten when it recounts the time when Hall was in command, explaining Tookoolito's life and experiences, as well as the ways she and her Inuit husband interacted with Westerners and Western society and vice versa. Nickerson is outstanding in illustrating Inuit customs, culture and legends; even seasoned readers of Arctic exploration books will learn something about Inuit ways. After Hall's death, however, the book suffers from a lack of information about Tookoolito, as Tyson and Tookoolito's husband, Ebierbing, emerge as strong characters. Much of this latter half of the story feels quickly told rather than carefully shown; Nickerson tries to compensate for the gaps with ramblings about, for instance, her research time in the library, astrophysics and her aging, ailing mother. These extraneous tidbits detract, and many readers will resent Nickerson's insertion of herself into what should be entirely Tookoolito's story. Still, the unique subject and Nickerson's real command of Inuit culture should carry the book through her digressions. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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