Sunday, September 13, 2015

CanLit Reviews: Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak by Victoria Jason

Just in case you weren't aware, I just recently finished my Across Canada Reading Challenge, where I read a book set in every Canadian province and territory. After I had finished reading books from every territory, my dad talked about a book he knew that was set in Northern Canada that had been written by a relative by marriage who had kayaked through the Northwest Passage. It turned out my grandma had a copy of the book, called Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak, which she kindly lent to me. 



Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak follows the travels of Victoria Jason as she kayaks from Churchill, through the Hudson Bay, along the Arctic coast and up the Mackenzie River, spread over four summers between 1991 and 1994. She began the journey with Don Starkell, the well-known adventurer who had kayaked down to South America from the Red River in Manitoba (he also wrote a book about it, Paddle to the Amazon). She spent the first two summers kayaking in partnership with Don Starkell until complications caused them to have to stop, and then the last two summers she did the journey solo. "Kabloona" is the Inuit word for stranger.

The book is split into four sections, each section covering one summer. In that way it almost seems like four books in one, because you go through the drama and intensity of the journey and then relax as she returns home, only to start out on another voyage in the next chapter! But each section of her travels is filled with wonderful stories, description of Arctic scenery, and incredible joy in her task. 

I think it's the enthusiasm that Victoria Jason has for all aspects of the North that really make this book memorable. Her enthusiasm and love of the North is contagious, and it comes through crystal clear in her writing. I could picture the towering pillars of ice and wide open Arctic skies and ocean as if I was really there, and it blew me away just like it did Victoria Jason.

You not only get to experience the grand and wondrous geography of the Arctic, that includes animals such as musk-ox, caribou and walrus, but also the people. Each person Jason meets along the way is mentioned by name, and becomes an important character in her story. The way she writes makes it clear that the Inuit people and culture have a special place in her heart.

One person you can definitely tell that Victoria Jason has no love for, however, is Don Starkell. What a jerk! In the first two sections while she travels with him, it just seems to be a continuous battle against his ego and rash stupidity. I'm sure it wasn't pleasant for Jason to have to deal with him, but it made for interesting reading, since there was the added agony of wondering when she would drop this jerk. Even so, Don Starkell's idiocy didn't quell Jason's obvious passion for paddling and the North.

If you are at all interested in reading more about the Arctic, or if you just want to read an incredible geographic adventure story, I would definitely suggest picking up this book.

You can find it online at Turnstone Press here.
You can also find it on Chapters.ca here.
I would also encourage you to look up and read a bit about Victoria Jason, who passed away in 2000, even if you don't plan on reading the book. She really was a fascinating woman.


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