Very few books I wish to read more than once but this book is an exception. I first read The Ivory Caribou about a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I recently ordered it for my Kindle and again couldn’t put it down.
The characters are well developed with personal conflicts and challenges and the plot moves quickly. It is refreshing to find a book about average, mature people who can find love in the most unlikely places. The widowed Anne O’Malley proves we can start a new life at any age.
For those suffering through the heat this summer I highly recommend you take a trip to the Arctic and live with the native Inuits for a time through the magic of Caroline McCullagh’s award winning writings. Caroline McCullagh expertly weaves a mystery, love story, history and sociology lessons into a magic carpet of wonder.
Recently widowed Anne O’Malley undertakes genealogical research into her father-in-law’s past as a way to remain connected to her deceased husband, but she discovers instead an extended Inuit family eager for her to join them for a future that connects her with the past at the same time as it beckons her forward into a new life.
Caroline McCullagh has woven elements of mystery, romance, and cross-cultural adventure into this, the first in a series of novels with Anne O’Malley at their center. Anne is not a typical romance protagonist. She is sixty and was married for nearly forty years to Robby, her much older husband. Together, she and Robby prepared for Anne’s financial independence during what they anticipated would be Anne’s life on her own. In spite of the planning, two years after Robby’s death, Anne continued to cling to Robby’s memory instead of moving forward.
The book is well written and the story so compelling I couldn’t put it down. And it wasn’t just the story that kept me turning the pages. The cross-cultural details Anne learns when she encounters her extended Inuit family even gave me insights into my own Scandinavian background. For example, as I grew up in a Minnesota area largely populated by northern Europeans, my parents insisted that expressing emotion–whether positive or negative–was undesirable. I could describe that behavior to others, but I couldn’t explain it. In McCullagh’s novel, I learned this prohibition of expressing emotions is also a characteristic of the Inuit culture, a necessity because of the long periods of time all family members were confined to small spaces where even minor loss of control could spiral the family members to unacceptable actions. That explanation fits the circumstances of my Norwegian ancestors as well.
I know Anne’s story continues, and I can’t wait to read more.
Anne, a sixty-year-old woman, mourns the passing of her husband and vows to carry on his unfinished work, that of finding the lost years of her father-in-law’s disappearance.
Her search takes her to unfamiliar places: the Arctic and the countryside of France during World War I. The well-paced story is at once an adventure and a mystery.
Drawn to the title, I was not sure what a caribou was, and looked it up. Yes, it was a large deer of the northern and arctic regions that has antlers in both the male and the female. Did that mean they were equally strong?
I remember the first time I ever saw a caribou was one Christmas when I bought my two-year-old to the Civic Center of Santa Clara, CA, to see the several live caribous on exhibit in red circus wagons. She was so stunned by their hugeness that she could not speak. All she could do was bring her two chubby hands up to her cheeks, and with wide-open eyes and mouth, stare in disbelief.
McCullagh’s sharp, understated humor in the dialogue brings us to the present locale in San Diego, where mariachi music plays on the radio and housekeepers become sage confidants.
There is much we can learn from cultures different from ours. The author shares her fascination and life-long love of the Inuit with us and we are better for it. We are drawn in to the love affair that develops between Anne and a man very different from her. Like her, we are changed by the experience. I totally enjoyed reading this book.
In The Ivory Caribou, Caroline McCullagh has created an enduring love story between a sixty-year-old woman and a man of unusual ethnicity. The author’s real love, though, is of anthropology, history, and language. She is a luminous storyteller and wordsmith of the highest order.