Jennifer Kingsley proves herself to be a keenly observant, sensitive, and intelligent writer with her debut book Paddlenorth: Adventure, Resilience, and Renewal in the Arctic Wild. Jennifer’s memoir is about the 50-day canoe trip she took with 4 friends across the 1000-kilometre Back River of Nunavut. Her experience as a guide and naturalist sharpens every detail she shares, from the rationed belongings and food she could pack for the trip, to her sublime surroundings–not just how tundra looks, but how it smells; how it tastes.
She renders the landscape she is writing about scientifically, accurately, and with loving detail. Astutely, she states on page 167, “working as a guide separates me somewhat from the mysteries of the land because I have to interpret what I see.”Gripped by her abounding knowledge and fascination for the environment she navigates, I imagine I had an experience not unlike those she leads on expeditions (in addition to being a wilderness guide, Jennifer is an accomplished radio broadcaster and environmental educator). An avid keeper of logs and journals, she diligently documents daily discoveries, mistakes, the weather, and the wildlife. As she candidly shares her own foibles and failures, as well as the vulnerabilities of her determined, but tested, companions, the truth only endears us to her more as an adventure-seeking woman rather than a romanticized hero; the latter, appropriately, is also featured throughout the book, as Jennifer alternates her own story with histories of the explorers who first mapped the Canadian north, battling exposure, starvation, madness, and each other.