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Marooned in the Arctic: The True Story of Ada Blackjack, the "Female Robinson Crusoe" (Women of Action)

Review

Marooned in the Arctic: The True Story of Ada Blackjack, the "Female Robinson Crusoe" (Women of Action)

Beyond MAROONED IN THE ARCTIC's pedestrian opening sentence ("Ada Delutuk was born on May 10, 1898, in the remote settlement of Spruce Creek, eight miles from the small village of Solomon, Alaska") awaits all the bravery, bravado, and tragedy of arctic exploration's Heroic Age. By the second page, Ada has already led her tubercular son, Bennett, on a 40-mile trek across Alaska's backcountry; by MAROONED's second chapter, Ada has embarked for the Subarctic, braving the great unknown --- and her paralyzing fear of polar bears --- to pay for Bennett's treatment. Entrusting her life to four strangers and a rocky outcropping in the Arctic Sea, Ada endures an early bout of arctic hysteria (she flees the tent, poisons herself and rambles across the desolate island alone) and struggles with an ever-expanding job description. She may have journeyed to Wrangel as a seamstress, but Ada returns as a cook, boat-maker, seal- and duck-hunter, nurse to her dying companion and --- at last --- lone survivor.

"MAROONED's claims of pulse-pounding, knuckle-clenching adventure and a "female Robinson Crusoe" might hook your interest, but this bio's abundance of salvaged photographs and first-person accounts earns your respect."

Let's get one thing straight: MAROONED's claims of pulse-pounding, knuckle-clenching adventure and a "female Robinson Crusoe" might hook your interest, but this bio's abundance of salvaged photographs and first-person accounts earns your respect. MAROONED grounds the razzle-dazzle of arctic conquest in scrupulous fact-checking, and Caravantes somehow forges diaries, scraps of letters, rumors, cover storie, and false accusations into a coherent narrative. Granted, MAROONED's story arc does emerge a tad lopsided; the suspense crescendos during Ada's lone battle for survival, yet the book crams the two months following her teammate's death into a meager dozen pages.

Unfortunately, MAROONED's reliance on facts stunts its character development. Although Ada's love for her son fuels her fight for survival (both on Wrangel and off), the sheer lack of records clouds readers' perceptions of Bennett Blackjack. Beyond his diagnosis and love of canine movie star Strongheart, Ada's ill son --- the reason for her ordeal on Wrangel and, consequently, this biography --- remains a mystery. Don't get me wrong, I more than understood Ada's affection for Benett, I just didn't share it.

While the book's brisk prose leaves little room for character development or lush imagery, the bio's crisp tone also accelerates the pacing. MAROONED condenses a slurry of pomp, disillusionment, grit and survival into a compact 208 pages --- unsurprisingly, Ada's ordeal speeds by at a pace belying our heroine's endurance. Craving a taut mashup of arctic exploration's Heroic Age and twenty-first century feminism? Peggy Caravantes' MAROONED IN THE ARCTIC has you covered.

Reviewed by Alison S., Teen Board Member on March 22, 2016

Marooned in the Arctic: The True Story of Ada Blackjack, the "Female Robinson Crusoe" (Women of Action)
by Peggy Caravantes