Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review: Death On The Barrens by George James Grinnell

About The Book:

Set in the remote arctic region of Northern Canada, this book takes readers on a harrowing canoe voyage that results in tragedy, redemption, and, ultimately, transformation. George Grinnell was one of six young men who set off on the 1955 expedition led by experienced wilderness canoeist Art Moffatt.

Poorly planned and executed, the journey seemed doomed from the start. Ignoring the approaching winter, the men became entranced with the peace and beauty of the arctic in autumn. As winter closed in, they suddenly faced numbing cold and dwindling food. When the crew is swept over a waterfall, Moffatt is killed and most of the gear and emergency food supplies destroyed. Confronting freezing conditions and near starvation, the remaining crew struggled to make it back to civilization.

For Grinnell, the three-month expedition was both a rite of passage and a spiritual odyssey. In the Barrens, he lost his sense of identity and what he had been conditioned to think about society and himself. Forever changed by the experience, he unsparingly describes how the expedition influenced his adult life and what powerful insights he was able to glean from this life-altering experience.

My Thoughts:

This was an excellent memoir. For the outdoor and nature types I recommend this one highly. George, referring to himself as Jim in the book, tells us a heart wrenching and harrowing journey of six men through the Barrens.

This was excellent because it was told by someone that was there and experienced it; that always makes for an exceptional story. The way it is told by Jim made me feel like I was sitting in my living room with him, and he was sharing his adventure.

Not only is the adventurous side of the story told, but the spiritual experience of being out in the wilderness is explained. This was an intense read at times and like I mentioned in the beginning, I think nature and outdoor types will like it. (I also think men would take to this one to.)

Author and Illustrator Biographies:

George Grinnell taught the history of science and intellectual history at McMaster University in Ontario from 1967 to 1991. He currently teaches meditation classes and lives in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Artist Roderick MacIver is the founder of Heron Dance, a nonprofit organization that celebrates the human connection to nature through art and words.

This book can be found here:

**Review copy provided by North Atlantic Books.


  1. Thanks for the review. I think I will look this one up. I love non-fiction adventure memoirs like this, it sounds like it's in the vein of Jon Krakauer, whom I enjoy.

  2. This sounds like a nice read when I need a break from romances! I just wanted to thank you for doing such a great job cheerleading on Saturday-your comments meant a lot. :)

  3. Great review,thanks, will look into.