The Seal Wife by Kathryn Harrison
A Novel

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Stunning, hypnotic, spare, The Seal Wife is the masterly new novel by Kathryn Harrison, “a writer of extraordinary gifts” (Tobias Wolff). Set in Alaska in 1915, it tells the story of a young scientist’s consuming love for a woman known as the Aleut, a woman who never speaks, who refuses to reveal so much as her name.

Born and educated in midwestern cities, Bigelow is sent north by the United States government to establish a weather observatory in Anchorage. But what could have prepared him for the loneliness of a railroad town with more than two thousand men and only a handful of women, or for winter nights twenty hours long? And what can protect him from obsession—obsession with a woman who seems in her silence and mystery to possess the power to destroy his life forever, and obsession with the weather kite he invents, a kite he hopes will fly higher than any has ever flown before and will penetrate the secrets of the heavens?

A novel of passions both dangerous and generative, The Seal Wife explores the nature of desire and its ability to propel an individual beyond himself and convention. As she brilliantly reimagines the terrain of the Alaskan frontier during the period of the First World War, Harrison, a “master of her material” (Mary Gordon), also evokes early efforts to chart the weather and reveals the interior realm of the psyche and emotions—a human landscape that, in its splendor and terror, is profoundly and eerily reminiscent of the frozen frontier and the storms that scour its face.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Kathryn Harrison

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Kathryn Harrison has written the novels Thicker Than Water, Exposure, Poison, The Binding Chair, The Seal Wife, and Envy. Her autobiographical work includes The Kiss, Seeking Rapture, The Road to Santiago, and The Mother Knot. She has also written a biography, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and, most recently, a book of true crime, While They Slept: An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family. She lives in New York with her husband, the novelist Colin Harrison, and their three children.
Published December 18, 2007 by Random House. 250 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Romance, Business & Economics. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Seal Wife

Kirkus Reviews

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.”), but everything gets patched up in good time for Bigelow to fly his kite with the Aleut girl by his side in the end.

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The Guardian

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her elegant pen has also given us the bestselling The Binding Chair, in which the theme is the breaking of young girls' feet, and a much-applauded memoir, The Kiss, in which she revealed the secrets of her abused childhood.

Sep 14 2002 | Read Full Review of The Seal Wife: A Novel

The Guardian

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In Harrison's earlier bestseller, The Binding Chair, the physical pain associated with the Chinese custom of breaking and binding the feet of girl children became the metaphor for the broken behaviour of the story's anti-heroine, Yu-ying.

Aug 04 2002 | Read Full Review of The Seal Wife: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

With prose as pristine as ice droplets, Harrison (author of The Binding Chair and the incest memoir The Kiss) tells the story of Bigelow, a young man sent to Alaska in 1915 to establish a weather observatory.

May 03 2002 | Read Full Review of The Seal Wife: A Novel

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