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For the last decade, Gretel Ehrlich has been obsessed by an island, a terrain, a culture, and the treacherous beauty of a world that is defined by ice. In This Cold Heaven she combines the story of her travels with history and cultural anthropology to reveal a Greenland that few of us could otherwise imagine.
Ehrlich unlocks the secrets of this severe land and those who live there; a hardy people who still travel by dogsled and kayak and prefer the mystical four months a year of endless darkness to the gentler summers without night. She discovers the twenty-three words the Inuit have for ice, befriends a polar bear hunter, and comes to agree with the great Danish-Inuit explorer Knud Rasmussen that “all true wisdom is only to be found far from the dwellings of man, in great solitudes.” This Cold Heaven is at once a thrilling adventure story and a meditation on the clarity of life at the extreme edge of the world.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||15 Years|
About the Author
Gretel Ehrlich is the author of A Match to the Heart, among other works of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. She divides her time between California and Wyoming.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Refreshing I flew over Greenland when returning to the States via Iceland and it took over an hour to fly over! Suffice to say, it’s big! It’s not green like its name implies, but frozen white. This book is the story of Gretel Ehrlich’s adventures to Greenland, a place I can see better now since she describes her seven trips so vividly in This Cold Heaven. Exercising her poetic license, she renders a seemingly static and frozen environment into a place rich with life. Surprising as it may be, she discovers ways to speak beyond physical descriptions and event narrations into all manner of inquiry -- just as the Eskimos, to borrow her metaphor, used “ice as a flint on which their imaginations were fired.” Natural, physical beauty is Ehrlich’s muse, and she particularly loves big open spaces and the Far North. This book shares a valuable look into the complexity of northern Greenland. The people she came to know see the world with much different eyes, and learning about their culture is shocking at times. The alcoholism and domestic abuse is alarming, (not unlike many other indigenous cultures that undergo rapid modernization), but what really astounded me was their preference of the four months of endless darkness to the gentler summers without night. This book is very interesting but her inconsistent writing style can be distracting. She starts with an arctic clarity but slips into densely metaphoric passages. I don’t think it’s her best work and there are other related books that I found more enjoyable to read. Her memoir, Solace in Open Places, is strong and Peter Freuchen’s Arctic Adventures (which Ehrlich wrote the preface for) captures a dynamic look at Eskimo culture in the early 20th century.
I have been on a "travel book" kick as of late. When I came across this book by Gretel Ehrlich, I was immediately curious as I have not really thought of Greenland other than what it looks like on a map: a large icecap which appears uninhabited. The paperback gives a completely different look at everyday life in Greenland. The author writes about her time on this Island and also gives the history of the many expeditions that have discovered all the hidden secrets. I've learned so much about this new world that I want to know more! Ms. Ehrlich writes with beautiful descriptions of life on land and ice. People do live there and prefer their "old way"s. I recommend this book to anyone with an adventurous spirit!
Though it may sound hackneyed, I must say that this is one of the three or four best books I have ever read (out of thousands). Everything is there: contemporary travel and adventure, personal reflections, and historical perspective. All written with, and from, the soul of a poet. Buy this book. You won't be sorry you did. Redstone recommends.