224 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $14.95
ISBN: 9781934137420


ISBN: 9781934137482

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“Shadowed by the Inuit word for stones resembling ‘a human form,’ a marker to reassure that ‘Someone was here,’ Spatz portrays a discordant family crippled by emotional and physical distance. . . . This tale of familial dysfunction is carefully interwoven with the historical retelling of Sir Franklin’s quest, resulting in a layered journey that is hauntingly honest and emotionally resonant.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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“[This] mix of well-researched history and contemporary fiction makes for a fine, sad read.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune

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“An elaborate tale of family and the paths people take to understanding.”

Seattle Times

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“Exact, haunting prose tells the story of a boy obsessed with Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin after his mother abandons the family.”

Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Best Indie Novels of the Year citation

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“Intimate and meditative . . . A thoughtful and sympathetic look at the sometimes troubled relationship between fathers and sons.”


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“A mesmerizing story of a father and a son.”

Largehearted Boy

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“Thomas, bullied at school, confused by love (with a delightfully original girl), pining for his mother, and distrustful of his father, takes control of the only thing he can—his physical survival. . . . A frozen lullaby . . . written for teens left behind.”


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Inukshuk better communicates darkness and distress than any S.O.S. signal. . . . We can’t help but oscillate between feeling empathy and agony for this family as we are absorbed by Spatz’s cold, gripping tale.”


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“This enthralling, tense book should lure not only fans of extreme weather novels but also those who admire a good, traditional structure and a satisfying and meaningful resolution.”


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“Entertaining and much recommended.”

Midwest Book Review

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“You can almost feel the chill of the arctic . . . a great weaving together of history and fiction.”

Two Weeks from Everywhere

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Inukshuk is a feat of empathy and honesty, a taut tale of fear and resentment and other threats from within, meticulously observed and fearlessly rendered in vivid, authoritative, gripping prose. It’s a virtuoso performance.”

Doug Dorst, author of Alive in Necropolis and The Surf Guru

“Gregory Spatz’s prose is as clean and sparkling as a new fall of snow.”

Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint it Black

“At its heart Inukshuk is about family. But Spatz has transfigured this beautifully told, wise story with history and myth, poetry and magic into something rarer, stranger and altogether amazing. A book that points unerringly true north.”

Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club and Wit’s End

“One of the most innovative and unusual fictional incarnations I’ve ever read of the persistent allure of Sir John Franklin’s final, fatal Arctic voyage. It’s a remarkable accomplishment.”

Russell Potter, author of Arctic Spectacles

“An incredibly honest account of a relationship between a father and a son after their wife and mother left them. . . . Spatz does a superb job finding a balance between the vivid descriptions of the main characters’ imaginary worlds and the moments of acute awareness they both have of their painful situation. A very convincing and beautiful novel.”

Pierre Camy, Schuler Books & Music (Grand Rapids, MI)

“A powerful tale of a father and son struggling through despair and loss.”

Jason Kennedy, Boswell Book Company (Milwaukee, WI)

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“You draw in a deep breath. Your day has been hectic. You feel overwhelmed and are longing for a simple moment where life will just stop. You pick up a book and begin reading. Your quiet comes. The words rest on the page, pulling you into the lives of each character. Suddenly your day melts away and you no longer care about yourself—you are transported. This is what it’s like to read Inukshuk.”

Melissa Opel, Auntie’s Bookstore (Spokane, WA) @ NW Book Lovers

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John Franklin has moved his fifteen-year-old son to the remote Canadian town of Houndstitch to make a new life together after his wife, Thomas’ mother, left them. Mourning her disappearance, John writes poetry and escapes into an affair, while Thomas, isolated and bullied, withdraws into a fantasy recreation of the infamous Victorian-era arctic expedition led by British explorer Sir John Franklin.

A poignant tale of the vulnerability of adolescence interspersed with powerfully evoked scenes of the legendary Franklin crew’s descent into despair, madness, and cannibalism on the Arctic tundra, Inukshuk offers readers a modern family drama as well as a compelling historical adventure.

Library Journal Best Indie Novel of the Year

Excerpt from Inukshuk

On the bus ride home it started again – the bleeding. Devon, his brother, would understand why it pleased Thomas enough almost to make him laugh out loud, except that the garish bubbling of half-thickened blood in his nostrils stopped him. He didn’t want it getting any messier than necessary. Didn’t want extra attention. Amendment: Devon would understand, but he would not approve. He’d know, bleeding made you impervious and repellent. No one gave you shit if you were bleeding. No one gave a shit about you. They gaped and made faces, but they left you alone. More importantly, bleeding proved the experiment might be working. The chewing gum had been a setback (who knew? actual vitamin C in Juicy Fruit) but he was on track again and soon to be unassailable.

He tilted back his head and pinched the nostrils lightly. Felt blood pooling at the back of his throat, swallowed; felt it seeping along his cheeks and lips, and gazed at the tranquil, seldom-observed ceiling of the bus – domed and riveted and blue-green – fixing his attention inward, on his movie. OK. Frame one, opening shot – Erebus and Terror at sea… Interesting how the voices of other kids faded, became tinny and inconsequential as soon as he had a picture in mind. Who cared about them? He blinked his eyes shut, sniffed again and exhaled steadily through his nostrils to keep the blood going. Drew up one knee and propped it against the seat-back in front of him.

From the start, then. Frame one:

Opening shot: exterior: the Erebus and the Terror on a sea more or less the same blue-green as that bus ceiling. No icebergs yet, no sign of land. Low-flying mist, and as the ships come closer, you see men on board, black-wearing and wrapped in wool. Cue distant dance music, accordions, mandolin and piano; mournful, ballad-inflected but melodic and mostly happy. This is a good day, despite the ominous backdrop – a joyous day. Roll-across subtitle: Day 107 of the Franklin Expedition to navigate the Northwest Passage. Stores just replenished in Greenland and closing in on Lancaster Sound. The true start of the adventure… or… the beginning of the end? Period rigging and period ships. Mid-1800’s, waddling, flat-bellied bombers re-fitted for the Arctic, both ships loaded practically to the water with coal and provisions. Seagulls… no, strike the seagulls. Two-shot: Leaning at the railing of ship number one (Terror), a pair of men with pipes, talking, gesturing. Establishment shot of the ship, and panning around it to ship two (Erebus) with more sounds. Cut to fight scene aboard Erebus: sounds of flesh hitting flesh – good amped-up Hollywood fight sounds, wet crackle of breaking tissue, cracking ribs, wheezy punched out breaths. POW. THWACK. WHUMP. Close-up of a sailor’s bloodied face. Ablebodied Seaman Thomas Work – one of the main characters and among the few men who will make it as far as Starvation Cove with Crozier. Shoulder-shot of other sailor’s face, both men circling – Private William Braine (dead of mysterious causes in less than a year, but now very much alive). Both men are bearded and stripped to the waist, backs steaming in the cold, and ringed around by cheering sailors. Work’s been goaded into this fight by insults, but because of a religious upbringing (maybe his inferior rank as well) limits his responses to self-defense. He won’t strike until he has to. All of this you know from his stance: wary, apologetic, fists raised. Braine moves in suddenly for the headlock. Clamps a sweating arm around Work’s head and squeezes, pops him a few good ones until Work breaks away again. They separate and circle. Camera dollies back to show the men from a distance, the whole ship-deck seen from above again, against a wind ruffled blue-green backdrop of vast emptiness – a kingdom of emptiness. From here it appears almost like they’re dancing crabs, circling each other and swinging fists, music from ship number one mixing together with the action and the cheering, so, from this perspective, it all has the appearance of fun – brutal, sailor merriment…

Gregory Spatz discusses the discovery of the HMS Erebus and his Franklin expedition-inspired novel Inukshuk with Doug Dorst at the Brooklyn Rail.

Read an excerpt from Inukshuk and a self-interview with Gregory Spatz at The Nervous Breakdown.

Read about Gregory Spatz’s relationship to Sir John Franklin at Native Home of Hope, find out how Spatz’s path to writing began at an independent bookstore in San Rafael, California (via NW Book Lovers), and explore the research behind Inukshuk at Necessary Fiction and in Glimmer Train.

Discover how Gregory Spatz persisted through years of New Yorker rejections at The Quivering Pen and why the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony is “the most exquisitely, perfectly sad pieces of music [he has] ever heard” (via New England Review).