When a small contingent of the United States Army sets off to explore the great Alaskan unknown that lies north of the Wolverine River in 1885, Colonel Allen Forrester must leave his newly pregnant wife Sophie behind. He expects many challenges from the weather, terrain, and the natives, but he doesn't plan for shapeshifter superstitions and starvation. As the trip becomes more challenging and more bizarre, he questions all the truths he once held. And at home, Sophie is doing the same. Facing a difficult pregnancy and smothering societal norms at the barracks, she must also forge new paths and find a way to keep herself sane. As a blossoming landscape photographer, she yearns to be by her husband's side as he makes new discoveries and catalogs never- before-seen wonders, while he prays that he'll be able to find his way home from uncharted territory and the terrifyingly foreign beliefs and customs he and his men encounter among their interactions with the natives.
As much as To the Bright Edge of the World is a novel about exploration, it's also an exploration for the reader, who witnesses the Colonel's travels and Sophie's struggles through a series of letters, journal entries, newspaper articles and reports. The author lets the reader draw their own conclusions, which is an adventure itself against the backdrop of magical realism, breathtaking scenery, and historical intrigue. Sophie and her husband's stories remain separate, just like they themselves are during the agonizing months he is away, and the reader watches as they both grow and change, thanks to the harrowing and joyful events both experience.
Reviewed by ba, 10/16. Other reviews by ba.