"This novel's scale, its delight in detail, and its psychological insight make it an exceptionally satisfying adventure."
In 1871, off the coast of Greenland, nineteen men, women, and children were cast adrift on an ice floe from their faltering ship, the Arctic explorer USS Polaris.
This multinational group endured for six months in the waters between Greenland and Baffin Island before being rescued. Afterlands (Houghton Mifflin, February 6, 2006), the new novel by acclaimed author Steven Heighton, brilliantly reimagines this famous event in the history of polar exploration.
Against the backdrop of nearly sunless days, thirty-five-below-zero nights, and starving, mutinous travelers, Heighton provocatively fills in the blanks of history. He traces the events of the Polaris expedition from the death of its captain to the dramatic trials of life on the ice floe.
As these strangers struggle to survive in the face of danger and desolation, they become friends, lovers, enemies, and rivals. Heighton also intriguingly imagines the aftermath of the ordeal, following its survivors as they attempt to go on with their lives.
Afterlands focuses on a trio of characters: Lieutenant George Tyson, the American ranking officer; Roland Kruger, an educated German seaman; and Hannah (or Tukulito), the party's Inuit interpreter.
Upon their return to America, Tyson publishes his heroic account of their party's ordeal, but Kruger challenges its accuracy. Through the haze of hunger and suspicion, the truth is hard to decipher, or even remember.
Who is to be believed? Heighton's prose eloquently takes us back to the hard months on the ice and reveals the fascinating story of the castaways.
In the tradition of Michael Ondaatje and Joseph Conrad, Heighton is at home in even the most remote locales, crafting an elegant novel that speaks to the most basic human emotions.
Part Arctic survival story, part psychological thriller, Afterlands is a powerful illustration of the timeless themes of faith, identity, and the ultimate cost of loyalty.
Steven Heighton is the author of The Shadow Boxer, a Mariner original that was a Publishers Weekly book of the year for 2002.
He has also written several collections of poetry, short stories, and essays. Heighton’s work has received numerous awards and has been translated into eight languages and internationally anthologized.
He resides in Kingston, Ontario. Afterlands is his second novel.