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.
Richard Lederer, author of
Anguished English and Amazing Words
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.