The Seal Wife: A Novel
Title: The Seal Wife: A Novel
Author: Kathryn Harrison
Sent north to Anchorage, Alaska, to establish an observatory in 1915, Bigelow, a young scientist, finds himself unprepared for the harsh loneliness of a frontier railroad town or the twenty-hour winter nights and becomes driven by his all-consuming love for an enigmatic woman known as the Aleut.
Stunning, hypnotic, spare, is the masterly new novel by Kathryn Harrison, “a writer of extraordinary gifts” (Tobias Wolff). Set in Alaska in 1915, it tells the story of a young scientist’s consuming love for a woman known as the Aleut, a woman who never speaks, who refuses to reveal so much as her name.
Born and educated in midwestern cities, Bigelow is sent north by the United States government to establish a weather observatory in Anchorage. But what could have prepared him for the loneliness of a railroad town with more than two thousand men and only a handful of women, or for winter nights twenty hours long? And what can protect him from obsession — obsession with a woman who seems in her silence and mystery to possess the power to destroy his life forever, and obsession with the weather kite he invents, a kite he hopes will fly higher than any has ever flown before and will penetrate the secrets of the heavens?
A novel of passions both dangerous and generative, The Seal Wife explores the nature of desire and its ability to propel an individual beyond himself and convention. As she brilliantly reimagines the terrain of the Alaskan frontier during the period of the First World War, Harrison, a “master of her material” (Mary Gordon), also evokes early efforts to chart the weather and reveals the interior realm of the psyche and emotions — a human landscape that, in its splendor and terror, is profoundly and eerily reminiscent of the frozen frontier and the storms that scour its face.