Boundless – Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage by Kathleen Winter
Like most people who read a lot I have a few of piles of books around the house. Some in the bedroom, some on my desk, some on a table in the family room. Some at home, some at the cottage. The books at the top of the pile change as something new is added and some never make it to the top of the pile and are ditched completely as time passes. Kathleen Winter’s book Boundless waited a long time in a pile – but surfaced recently in my Newfoundland pile – and it was just the right book at the right time earlier this summer.
Kathleen Winter, of course, is best known for her novel Annabel, a huge bestseller, the 2014 Canada Reads champion, and nominated for many awards nationally and internationally.
Boundless is autobiography, an examination of the author’s past and present as she sets off on a journey into the Northwest Passage. Embarking from Greenland where the dogs outnumber the human residents, Kathleen Winter is one of several “guests” onboard a Russian cruise ship heading into the Northwest Passage. She leaves her day-to-day life as a writer, wife and mother behind in Montreal for the opportunity to see not only a remote and exceptional part of the world, but also a time to see herself as separate from the past that has come to identify her. Kathleen Winter took this trip during a year in which she passed a “milestone” birthday, finding it a shape-shifting, defining moment, an acceptance and rejection of the passing of time.
This trip took place before the discovery of Franklin’s lost ships, and Franklin expert Ken McGoogan was also one of the passengers. The mythic loss of Franklin, his men and his ships haunted the voyage and all of the passengers.
Part travelogue, part personal exposé Boundless is altogether a thoroughly fascinating book. During two long, and short, weeks Kathleen Winter experienced personal growth, found friendship and acceptance, patience and forgiveness, and her worldview would never be the same again.
There is high drama when the ship founders in the remote Arctic. Inuit lore and history are revealed by an on board historian, Bernadette Dean, who becomes a friend to Kathleen. From her we learn about Robert Peary who removed a meteorite from Greenland to New York City where it still resides in the Museum of Natural History, along with garments belonging to Bernadette’s ancestors.
And, a bit of breaking news for readers of this review – Kathleen Winter will be in Parry Sound with The International Festival of Authors on Thursday 26 October when she will introduce her forthcoming book Lost in September. I am presently reading an advance copy and finding it funny, captivating, completely eccentric and totally wonderful!