Rankin Inlet by Mara Feeney
Published by Gaba Press
The frozen climes of northern Canada are the backdrop for this tale of the people of Rankin Inlet, a small settlement on the western shore of Hudson Bay. The local inhabitants are Inuit, and their village is growing steadily with the introduction of outsiders from various countries. Alison, the heroine of the story, arrives at Rankin Inlet after travelling from her native Liverpool. She has made the journey to take up a position at the local health centre, where she will be sharing the nursing duties with two other women.
Alison leaves the relative comfort of life in Liverpool for the adventure which unfolds as she gets to know the people and the way of life in Rankin Inlet. The story begins in the 1970s and charts the highs and lows of life near the Arctic Circle over a period of thirty years. Hunting and fishing are the main food providers in the area, but as the 'civilized' world encroaches upon the local population, tradition and progress come face to face. Modern convenience foods, which are shipped in to the only store every spring, are replacing the traditional raw meat and fish. Old traditions like the 'honey wagon' are gradually phased out as modern plumbing is installed, but there is resistance to change from many of the inhabitants, especially the older ones.
The book is written as a series of letters between the main characters, which works very well as the reader has the story explained from different points of view. There is an openness and honesty in the writing; the unpleasant, and sometimes gory, aspects of life in the frozen north are not glossed over or sanitized.
An excellent first novel, which is both well written and well presented.