The story of four indentured servants in Czarist Russia in 1853 who escape and travel to freedom by canoe. In 1853, four Scandinavian indentured laborers in Russian Alaska steal a canoe and begin to paddle south toward the mouth of the Columbia River, twelve hundred miles away.
The coast they travelled is a maze of channels with literally hundreds of islands and passages. The battle against the sea is vividly described—storms, fog, the totally uninhabited coast except for a few hostile natives and the sheer distance they had to paddle produced not only physical but mental challenges. The beautiful but deadly setting is wonderfully described. I found the characters believable and well realized. The plot had several unexpected twists that kept me turning the pages.
I have been a fan of Ivan Doig’s storytelling for many years now. This is an early work of Doig’s, obvious in that his writing style is far less polished than in his later books. There is an odd mix of very convoluted, incredibly long sentences, followed by staccato partial sentences. I found this combination hard to read and it made it difficult for me to get into the storyline. Nevertheless, after feeling that I was slogging through the first few chapters, Doig’s storytelling once again caught me and I was hooked.
Recommended with some reservations about the writing style.
These men were united in their desire to reach freedom but were of vastly differing personalities. Readers get to understand them through Doig’s imagined dialog. His account of the perils they faced is gripping. It is remarkable that any survived.
A vast amount of research went into this novel, and readers who appreciate “adventure tales” will be well served.
It's the mid-1800s and four Swedish men decide to leave “Russian America” (now Alaska) for Astoria, Oregon. They canoe alongside the coast to get there.
I couldn't get interested in the book for the first 1/3 of the book or so. There were a lot of names – people and places – and I just couldn't focus. It did get a little more interesting after they were finally on their way, but overall, it was still pretty slow for me. Looking at other reviews, it appears I am in a minority on this. I did find it interesting that this was based on a true story.