Some people like to read about summery places during the winter. I am the opposite. It’s not because I am a masochist— reading about places colder than where I live actually makes me feel like I don’t have it so bad here in Minnesota where today it is 3°F (the low tomorrow predicted to be -15°F!) People from warmer climates might be wondering how it could possibly get much colder than that or how people could possibly inhabit an area such as this. But read the following books and you will see how the people from these areas don’t just survive, they thrive.
A Place In The Woods is the true story of an upper-class couple from Chicago who dreamt of living in a remote and wooded area “up north”. After years of searching, they find a property up on the Minnesota/Canadian border. When they move in, they are met with major catastrophes related to the climate and structure of their building that would make any other person immediately throw in the towel. But they don’t. They stick it out, encouraged by the show wildlife put on for them each and every day. The author, Helen Hoover, trains a weasel and gets up close and personal with fisher’s and bears. I had never even heard of a fisher before reading this book. After doing some research, I’m convinced I would not want to get up-close and personal with the scary rat-faced squirrel-like creature. But Hoover and her artist husband Adrian loved all animals. They did not hunt and even had a hard time deciding whether or not to eat the chickens they raised. I can relate.
Most heart-wrenching for me was Hoover’s account of being low on funds and the excitement that followed upon learning that Adrian had an appointment lined up in Duluth to meet with a potential client for a big gig that would bring them plenty of money. He was to make drawings at home and could mail them in. On the morning of the meeting in Duluth, the car doesn’t start and the phone is out! When Helen asks Adrian how much the contract was for, Adrian replies $10,000. This was the 1950’s. It would have been enough money for them to live off of for several years up there. But instead of being incredibly depressed about missing out on such a contract, they do the only natural thing, which was to give up being dependent on the car and to figure out another way to make money via the mail. The nasty letter they receive from the gentleman they supposedly stood up is only more reason to live further away from people.
When I complain about having to put my coat on to walk 50 paces to get our mail on these 3° days, I can think about Adrian Hoover, walking 3 miles to pick up the mail that is delivered to them each Saturday. And he most definitely had to walk in much colder temperatures being 4-5 hours north of here!
If you too live in a cold climate and are sick to death of it already this winter, consider reading this book. I promise it will encourage you to make it through the rest of the winter. And on the flip side of things, if you live in a warm climate and are interested to know how people survive during the cold months in northern states such as Minnesota, this book will amaze, educate and delight you.
Another book I have recently read is Consumption. This book takes place on Hudson Bay in Canada. If you ever wanted to know what it would be like to live some place that is mostly iced over and is also inhabited by polar bears, this is the book for you! The story is focused around Victoria, an Inuit woman who marries a white man and the political, geographical, medical and social problems she encounters
The story starts with Victoria being sent to a southern hospital as a child to overcome her Tuberculosis. This is the 1960’s and the government frequently removed Inuit people from their villages and sent them to a hospital to be cared for by white people. When they returned, sometimes many years later, they had lost their appetite for raw seal meat and often times their family did not fully accept them back since they were so “changed”. Victoria spent many years in the hospital where she had access to a radio. When she returns home, she is distanced from her family but finds a connection with a white man living in the village who is familiar with all the same radio shows and world politics that Victoria learned about and was interested in at the hospital.
Victoria becomes pregnant and marries the Kablunauk (white man), drawing scorn from her community. Victoria’s children, being of mixed race, eventually each choose one ethnicity to identify with and this divides the family somewhat but what really divides the family is the South African diamond mining company and Victoria’s husband’s connection with the company.
Victoria’s life isn’t exactly a happy one. She is met with many disappointments in her life but the story feels real and raw, just as our own lives can sometimes be. The fact that it takes place in one of the coldest places in the world adds to the desperation and loneliness already felt through the characters. The children try to find their own way in a world infected with MTV, the doctor has his own nasty little habit and to top it all off, somebody of prominent importance is murdered.
It’s not a total downer. I was definitely glad I read the book, especially during this winter we are having. It reminded me that although it is colder than anything I have ever experienced in my life right now, people near the Hudson Bay are going on hunting trips and staying overnight in dwellings made of ice and snow. I think I can survive a few more months in my cozy little home.