Why did I love this book?
This is an ancient, novel-length tale of a hero in the Alaska wilderness near the dawn of time, confronting the cruelty and grief endemic in a world in which survival always hangs on the luck and skill of the hunter. Oman, who died in 2018 at 102, told me 30 years ago about holding onto the Qayaq story, even through the years when her cultural practices were effectively outlawed. She grew up at a time in Kotzebue when her father, a shaman, could only tell the ancient stories of her Inupiaq people at night, in secret, vouchsafing them with her for another generation. As an adult she continued collecting them, and then, in her old age, published this graceful and haunting story, which seems to reach to us from another world.