Book Review: The Sun Is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert


Inspiring and Humbling

I am one who finds it fabulous when I get my 10-12 thousand steps in a day. I enjoy a day at the lake with a fishing rod nearby, but most often with a book in hand. Kayaking and canoeing are enjoyable when I’m a few feet from shore and the water is glass without a cloud in the sky. I am not an adventurer and readily admit that I enjoy my comforts and the calm of my home. The rugged Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and even the Yukon are places I like to visit through pages and pictures, but would not want to conquer on my own.

I realise that 2019 is still in its first quarter, and I’ve read some really excellent books so far, but The Sun Is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert is my most favourite read in a very long time. My poor family members had to listen to me narrate what was happening any time something caught my fancy. It’s not often that a memoir captures my attention and reads better than fiction. It is, as described by the publisher, “the gripping story of a biologist’s human-powered journey from the Pacific Northwest to the Arctic to rediscover her love of birds, nature, and adventure.”

The well written first-person narrative captured my attention from the opening paragraph and kept me in its grip until the very last sentence. A descriptive, relatable text chronicling human nature vs. Mother Nature. It was an incredibly beautiful tale of human endurance and a reminder of how small we are in the vastness of the wilderness. Inspiring and humbling all at once, I cannot recommend this title enough. It was a brilliant blending of insight and observation.

If you are looking for a book to point out that you are quite satisfied in your semi-rural, daily grind existence, this is it. If you enjoy living vicariously through the adventures of other individuals, this is it. If you find courage in tales of human vs. wild, this is it. If you find motivation in accomplishment and beating the odds, this is it. If you want to find yourself lost in a recounting of someone finding themselves in living and travelling by their own power through remote and austere environs, this is it. Colourful, descriptive, and moving. Absolutely brilliant – I have huge respect for the adventurer and her husband and how well she retold their story. I felt a strange sense of pride in their accomplishment.

(P.S. I’m not a huge fan of book to movie renditions, but I could vividly imagine this on the big screen with every new page.)

I was provided with a copy of this title via NetGalley courtesy of the author and/or publisher. All opinions are my own.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: March 19, 2019

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