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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Gretel Ehrlich has guts -- as well as a heart filled with feeling for the land and people of Greenland, and This Cold Heaven is the proof. Over the course of repeated journeys to and through this virtually unknown and frozen (in more ways than one) world, Ehrlich flays out in rich, moody prose the chronic travails of lives lived, for the past 5,000 years, literally on the edge of existence.
Ehrlich has entered a world where frostbite may have to be remedied by having your fellow traveler bite off your toes; where you may have to boil the sealskin harnesses from your dogsled to fight off starvation; where, deceived by the innocence of snow, a misplaced step may send you plunging into frigid open water. These things are simply unimaginable to most of us, but with the help of Ehrlich's visceral chronicling we can begin to grasp the paradigms of polar Eskimo life, both past and present. Throughout, Ehrlich also draws largely upon the work of the early-20th-century explorer Knud Rasmussen -- himself of Danish and Inuit birth -- interspersing the history of his multiple expeditions in the polar north with her own contemporary insights and adventures.
From the knife-edge of disappointment and gnawing hunger that a failed seal kill brings to both her and the Inuit hunters with whom she travels, to the heartbreak of goodbye to a longtime host's young daughter when she knows she is leaving the girl to a family constellation of alcoholism, poverty, and depression -- we find ourselves helpless against Ehrlich's white-hot candor, and we willingly share in her empathic bond with the Greenlanders. All this and more make This Cold Heaven not only an important work of modern experiential ethnography but also an altogether riveting read. (Janet Dudley)