To the Bright Edge of the World
In the winter of 1885, decorated war hero Colonel Allen Forrester leads a small band of men on an expedition that has been deemed impossible: to venture up the Wolverine River and pierce the vast, untamed Alaska Territory. Leaving behind Sophie, his newly pregnant wife, Colonel Forrester records his extraordinary experiences in hopes that his journal will reach her if he doesn't return--once he passes beyond the edge of the known world, there's no telling what awaits him.
The Wolverine River Valley is not only breathtaking and forbidding but also terrifying in ways that the colonel and his men never could have imagined. As they map the territory and gather information on the native tribes, whose understanding of the natural world is unlike anything they have ever encountered, Forrester and his men discover the blurred lines between human and wild animal, the living and the dead. And while the men knew they would face starvation and danger, they cannot escape the sense that some greater, mysterious force threatens their lives.
Meanwhile, on her own at Vancouver Barracks, Sophie chafes under the social restrictions and yearns to travel alongside her husband. She does not know that the winter will require as much of her as it does her husband, that both her courage and faith will be tested to the breaking point. Can her exploration of nature through the new art of photography help her to rediscover her sense of beauty and wonder?
The truths that Allen and Sophie discover over the course of that fateful year change both of their lives--and the lives of those who hear their stories long after they're gone--forever.
"An epic adventure story that seems heir to the tradition of Melville's own sweeping and ambitious literary approach to the age-old struggle of humans versus nature . . . An absorbing and high-stakes read." -- Kathleen Rooney, Chicago Tribune
An Amazon Best Book of the Year
A Washington Post Notable Book
A Goodreads Choice Award Nominee
A Library Journal Top 10 Book of the Year
A BookPage Best Book of the Year
Praise For To the Bright Edge of the World: A Novel…
"To the Bright Edge of the World moves seamlessly through different times and different voices to depict an often harrowing journey that leads the central characters to question all that they 'have known as real & true.' Ivey's novel is a dazzling depiction of love, endurance, courage, and wonder, and a worthy successor to The Snow Child."
—Ron Rash, author of Serena
"Beautifully told...a page-turner, a fascinating story that is broad in its scope as it is compassionate in its message...Ivey has created a world that is dangerous and beautiful, worrisome and satisfying, all in a novel that readers will not soon forget."
—Jim Carmin, The Miami Herald
"Powerful...Ivey is a gifted storyteller and a lyrical prose stylist...remarkable."
—Amy Greene, New York Times Book Review
"An epic adventure story that seems heir to the tradition of Melville's own sweeping and ambitious literary approach to the age-old struggle of humans versus nature...an absorbing and high-stakes read."
—Kathleen Rooney, The Chicago Tribune
"To the Bright Edge of the World is a glorious feast of American mythology. In it, Eowyn Ivey's Alaska blooms vast and untouchable, bulging with mystery and wonder, and lit by an uneasy midnight sun. On this haunted stage, the lines between man and beast are blurred, and Ivey has etched her most compelling characters: the incorruptible, determined Sophie Forrester, who wrestles with the rules of men and polite society; and her husband, the explorer Allen Forrester, who struggles mightily against the uncivilized Alaskan wilderness with its ragged teeth. Gorgeously written, utterly un-put-downable, To the Bright Edge of the World sweeps its reader to the very brink of known territory, and presents that bright edge in stark relief: gleaming, serrated, unforgiving. As with The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey has once again written a magical, breathtaking novel that I just cannot put out of my mind."
—Jason Gurley, author of Eleanor
"An exceptionally well-turned adventure tale...Heartfelt, rip-snorting storytelling."
—Kirkus (Starred Review)
"Eowyn Ivey is a deft craftswoman, attentive to the shape and heft of her sentences...[she] fashions characters who come to warm and vivid life against her frozen Alaskan landscapes...What could be a better beach read than an arctic adventure?"
—Geraldine Brooks, Guardian (US Edition)
"A stunning and intriguing novel combining the epic adventurous sweep of Alaska with minutely beautifully observed details--the reader finishes it wiser and richer."
—Rosamund Lupton, author of Sister and The Quality of Silence
"All the pleasures of a great novel are here--the well-crafted sentence, the deft pacing, the compelling plot, and characters that we care passionately about. Add to those already significant achievements a few eerie hints of the supernatural, some nail-biting mystery/thriller drama, the understanding that's gained from historically accurate details, and the endorphin rush of a love story. And then consider that the novel's construction provides yet another pleasure, the pleasure of the puzzle, as the reader gets to participate in the assemblage of journal entry, letter, drawing, and artifact, therefore co-creating this epic Alaskan adventure. How can one novel contain such richness? Eowyn Ivey is a wonder."
—Tom Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
"An entrancing, occasionally chilling, depiction of turn-of-the-century Alaska...In this splendid adventure novel, Ivey captures Alaska's beauty and brutality, not just preserving history, but keeping it alive."
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Ivey deftly draws the reader into the perils of the journey...a compelling historical saga of survival."
—Booklist (Starred Review)
"Ivey not only makes [this novel] work, she makes it work magnificently...The Snow Child (a lovely retelling of an old Russian folk tale), was a runaway hit, an international best seller, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her second work is even better."—Library Journal , (Starred Review)
"Ivey's characters, without exception, are skillfully wrought and pull the narrative forward with little effort. She does not stoop to blanket depictions of tribal life or Victorian women, and instead has created a novel with all of the fine details that make historical fiction such an adventure to read. Fans of The Snow Child will not be disappointed."—Meganne Fabrega, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Lustrous...Ivey's writing is assured and deftly paced. She presents a pleasing chorus of voices and writing styles in an amalgam of journals, letters, newspaper clippings, greeting cards, official reports and more...The couple's moving love story binds the multilayered narrative together...Ivey's first novel, The Snow Child, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and her follow-up act is certain to garner its own accolades as readers discover its many unfolding pleasures."—David Takami, Seattle Times
"An 1880's Alaskan adventure that really delivers...a rip-roaring frontier adventure."
—Ellen Hoffman, Business Insider
"Raises the personal stakes and the emotional payoff to impressive new levels...a stunning and subtle performance...This is enchanted writing."
—Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor
"An American masterpiece...beautifully written, fast-paced, wide-ranging, historically-based, and creatively imagined and structured...It delivers in all the ways a great novel should...deserves every accolade it will surely receive."
—Nancy Lord, Alaska Dispatch News
"Ivey's simultaneous wide scope and focus on detail are part of what makes this novel so absorbing. It's no mere testosterone-fueled tale of heroism. Her narrative encompasses, however fleetingly, the girls and women at the margins."
—Laura Collins-Hughes, The Boston Globe
"Read it for the adventure. Read it for the time you'll spend thinking about it long after you've turned the last page."
—Erin Kodicek, Omnivoracious
"Spellbinding...a cracking adventure that pulses with emotional power and a brutal kind of beauty...brings history and folklore to life in a visceral and utterly beguiling way."
—Stephanie Harrison, Bookpage, Top Pick in Fiction for August
"A riveting story of adventure, mystery and love...Ivey populates her novel with rich supporting characters...a spellbinding Pacific Northwest historic fiction."
"This rich blend of adventure bravado and contemplative memoir, past and present, reinvigorates the idea of a historical novel."
—The National Book Review
"You feel the excitement and the wonder that [the characters] are experiencing. This is another magical novel from her [Ivey]."
"A terrific example of why we love these stories of man-against-nature. But it also aspires to be something more...it's evident from Ivey's two books that she is also interested in the inexplicable magic of the world--real or imagined--that hovers just beyond our conscious perceptions. And so, while she is certainly deft at conveying the 'gray rivers that roar down from the glaciers, mountains & spruce valleys,' she is equally at home dropping a sea monster into those waters...To the Bright Edge of the World is a moving, surprising story. The Artic Addict in me is very grateful that Ivey wrote it."—Chris Bohjalian, The Washington Post
"An epic adventure intertwined with a story of genuine love."
—Shawna Seed, The Dallas Morning News
"Beautifully done...you'll get lost in the details and become engrossed in the love story playing out...Simply wonderful, and I cannot recommend it enough."
—Amy Gwiazdowski, BookReporter
"It's safe to say that Ivey fans will not be disappointed by this spine-tingling romantic odyssey."
—David Fox, Anchorage Press
"The real journey in Eowyn Ivey's new novel transcends the physical landscape to a netherworld of magical, mysterious and sometimes diabolical proportions."—Betty J. Cotter, Providence Journal
Little, Brown and Company, 9780316242851, 432pp.
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
A major theme of the novel is how characters see the natural world in vastly different ways. How do Allen and Sophie Forrester’s understanding of the world around them differ from the native tribes that Allen and his men encounter on their journey up the Wolverine River? Which worldview lines up more closely with your own experience of nature?
The author uses letters, journal entries, newspaper headlines, and other documents from the past to tell her story. How does the novel’s construction affect your reading experience?
How do you think the expedition would have changed if Sophie were able to accompany Allen on his journey as she had originally planned?
How do Allen’s and Sophie’s stories affect the lives of Joshua Sloan and Walter Forrester? Do they see their lives differently as they read about the events of 1885? Do you have any historical journals or letters in your own family that give you a front-row seat to the lives of your ancestors? If so, how have those documents changed your thoughts about your family and impacted your own life?
The new art of photography becomes very important to Sophie. In what ways does her pursuit of art help her through a difficult time in her life? Does any art form play a similar role in your own life?
Do Allen Forrester and his men change the environment and tribes that they encounter on their expedition, or are they the ones more changed?
The intersection of myth and reality plays a central role in the novel. In what ways does the line between myth and reality become blurred? How do you as a reader tell the difference? And in what ways do Sophie’s and Allen’s stories take on the hint of myth as the years go by?
First person narrations can at times be unreliable. How trustworthy are Allen’s and Sophie’s diary entries and letters? Do you think there’s a difference in the reliability of the narration between letters meant to be read by another person and diary entries that an individual writes to process their own lives? Do you think all the events we read about from the expedition happened as described?
Are there any unexplored frontiers left in the world that Joshua Sloan and Walter Forrester live in today? Are their lives poorer for not experiencing the sense of adventure and the thrill of discovery that gave shape to Allen and Sophie's lives? Does that lack of an undiscovered country help explain why they become so fascinated with Allen and Sophie’s papers?
Is To the Bridge Edge of the World primarily an adventure story, a love story, historical fiction, a mix of all three, or a different genre altogether? Why?
Who do you see as the main protagonist of the novel—Allen or Sophie? Does the novel have a villain? If so, who, or what, is it?