Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Review: The Ivory Caribou by Caroline McCullagh

The Ivory Caribou
by Caroline McCullagh

30301772Is it a love story? Or is it an adventure story? Or is it a commentary on the tragedy of war? It is all of these, and more.  Caroline McCullagh weaves a thrilling and dynamic story around Anne O’Malley’s genealogical search for the story of her late husband’s father that takes her to the far North of Canada to find new relatives among the Inuit culture, to Europe behind the lines in World War I, and back to the small Inuit village where she finds romance.

My Take:
When Anne O'Malley's husband died, her world seemed to come to an end. As so often happens when a spouse dies, her world collapsed in on itself, and she was caught going through the motions of just surviving.

After about a year of this mourning, her lifetime housekeeper Carola encouraged her to break out of the depression and pursue her husband Robbie's goal of finding out more about his long dead father.

The genealogical research leads her to Ottawa Canada, and from there to the far North, searching for answers. Little did she suspect that what she would find there was romance and a new future.

The Ivory Caribou is a story of romance and adventure in the frozen North among the Inuit, as well as a journey to the past, replete with espionage and tragedy overseas during World War I. It gives the reader a solid understanding of the life and times of the Inuit, or Eskimo, peoples in their battle to survive in the frozen wilderness around the Arctic Circle.

PG - While this book covers some of the atrocities of WWI there is actually little wartime violence on screen. Natural predators, weather conditions, and plague are the major antagonists in this novel, and while violent, their ravages are not given in graphic detail.

PG-13 - There are a few curse words scattered sporadically in this novel, and the F-bomb is dropped once in a critical plot point.

Drug Content:
PG-13 -  Drinking occurs to excess in a few places. One incident involves a few overly drunken locals causing trouble. Several scenes occur at bars, and one person has to be escorted to their hotel room repeatedly because of their inebriated state. Harder drugs do not seem to make an appearance in the book, at least that i recall.

Adult Content:
R - The main character ends up in multiple sexual encounters, and their accounts give significant detail, mainly over the foreplay. A woman at a bar is a known 'easy target', and two female characters compete over a male companion. Adultery occurs in several scenes, though it has consequences, and there is some frank discussion about the value and status of women in the Inuit culture. Some shopping for undergarments occurs in preparation for a tryst. One character lies to cover up an affair.

Christian content:
In the world of World War I, a character consults a priest and takes classes to become Catholic so he can marry a woman. His respect for the priest is genuine, but he already has a wife back home that he despairs of ever returning to. Guilt over sin occurs in multiple places, but is never taken to the cross. The gods of the Inuit are explored somewhat, as well as amulets and rituals to protect from their wrath. Most of the characters in the book have little or no faith exposed.

Final analysis:
The world of the frozen North, its challenges for survival and its rich history are explored and displayed in immersive glory, and it's where this book really shines. The quality of the writing is strong, and the characters are believable. The world of the past in WWI is clearly described, and the challenges of life as a spy in wartime are intriguingly portrayed. The romance permeating this book was too much of a focal point for me, but I suspect I'm not a regular target reader and that the indulgence in romance would be attractive to other readers. The action wasn't really gripping to me, but the characters were real and their emotional scars raw. What really stood out was the world building, and that earned this book Five Stars.

About the Author:
Caroline McCullaghCaroline McCullagh, award-winning author of The Ivory Caribou, coauthor of American Trivia & American Trivia Quiz Book with Richard Lederer, earned a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of California, San Diego. Her diverse writing projects include five novels, a cookbook, a memoir, a student opera (under the auspices of San Diego Opera), fourteen years of monthly book reviews for the San Diego Horticultural Society, and one year as Books Editor for The American Mensa Bulletin. For the past three years, Caroline has written a weekly column for the San Diego Union-Tribune with Richard Lederer. As a professional editor, she teaches creative writing two days a week.  The Ivory Caribou, then titled Fire and Ice, was a past Winner at the San Diego Book Awards as Best Unpublished Novel. Caroline has won twice and has been a finalist once.

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