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Ada Blackjack
Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic
$32.99
Hardcover
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BOOK DETAILS

  • Hardcover
  • Nov.03.2004
  • 9780786868636
$16.99
Paperback
See Book Details »

BOOK DETAILS

  • Paperback
  • Nov.03.2004
  • 9780786887460

Jennifer gives an overview of the book:

In September 1923, a diminutive twenty-five-year-old Eskimo woman named Ada Blackjack emerged as the lone survivor of an ambitious polar expedition.  She was a young and unskilled woman who headed into the Arctic in search of money and a husband.  What she found instead was a nightmare rivaling even the most horrific folktales she had grown up hearing from the storytellers in her village. After Ada’s triumphant return to civilization, the international press called her the female Robinson Crusoe.  But Ada never considered herself a hero.  As far as she was concerned, she did what she had to do when she found herself in a life and death situation.  Faced with responsibilities and challenges she had never known existed, she survived.
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In September 1923, a diminutive twenty-five-year-old Eskimo woman named Ada Blackjack emerged as the lone survivor of an ambitious polar expedition.  She was a young and unskilled woman who headed into the Arctic in search of money and a husband.  What she found instead was a nightmare rivaling even the most horrific folktales she had grown up hearing from the storytellers in her village.

After Ada’s triumphant return to civilization, the international press called her the female Robinson Crusoe.  But Ada never considered herself a hero.  As far as she was concerned, she did what she had to do when she found herself in a life and death situation.  Faced with responsibilities and challenges she had never known existed, she survived.

Read an excerpt »

Lately she couldn’t sleep because there was too much to think about and to worry about.  Knight looked as if he might die any minute, some days more than others.  He still had moments—brief ones— when he felt better, but these had become rare.  She could tell by his voice then, which would sound stronger, clearer, more like his old self.  But other days, most days, she could barely hear him or understand his words because his voice was so faint and halting, just a whisper, and she had to lean in close to hear him. 

His stomach turned on him and he began refusing food.  He didn’t eat anything for nine days straight until finally she was able to persuade him to eat a fried biscuit.  His spirit was there—she could see him in his eyes—but his body was giving out.  She prayed that she would survive until a ship came. 

It wasn’t that Knight could be of any help to her now, but the very fact that he was there, breathing, meant that she was not alone, and that someone else shared this remote, forgotten place.  He relied on her to care for him physically, to talk to him, to be there if he should need something, and she counted on him to keep her company and remind her that, no matter how lonely she felt, there was someone else to share this hell.

While Knight lay in his bed, Ada sat nearby and made herself some sealskin boots, a blanket coat, a parka, and a sun hat to go hunting in, along with a pack for carrying things.  The little house was cozy, but the weather was blustery and cold, and fog hovered over the mountains.   

Her birthday had arrived and passed with no celebration, no acknowledgment, no observation.  She had other things on her mind.  Every day, when the weather allowed, she cleaned her gun and then set out with it and her shoulder platform to find some game.  She had seen ducks, geese, gulls, brants, ravens, and owls across the sky.  But her aim was still unreliable, and she knew she must be careful not to waste her ammunition.  Rather than come home empty-handed each time, she collected sweet roots to boil up into a stew. 

If she made a mistake once, she didn’t make it again.  When she fell into the mouth of the harbor up to her ankles, she learned.  When she shot too far to the left or to the right and frightened off the birds without hitting one, she took note.  When she pulled the trigger, forgetting that she had already set the hammer, it nearly knocked her over, but she wasn’t hurt.  And she never forgot again.  She also learned to keep the fox skins out of reach of the cat, who kept trying to eat them.  

A storm roared in on May 27, blowing snow into the storm shed and threatening to invade the house.  Ada had meant to go over to the old camp to see how the hunting conditions were there, but was forced to delay until the weather was calmer.  When she did go, she was not prepared for how desolate the camp seemed.  It was strange being back there, where the five of them had once lived together.  There was evidence of all of them littered across the ground, but there was no sign of life.  No animal tracks, no birds flying above, no evidence that a bear or fox had ever been there.  It was only six months ago that Ada, Knight, Crawford, Galle, and Maurer had lived here together and celebrated Christmas and talked of all their future plans.  Only five months since Crawford, Maurer, and Galle had headed off with the dogs, so full of hope and ambition and determination. 

jennifer-niven's picture

Compellingly researched and told with novelistic flair, Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic, by Jennifer Niven, is as brilliant and multifaceted as sunlight on new snow. -- The Boston Globe

About Jennifer

Jennifer Niven lives in Los Angeles (where her film Velva Jean Learns to Drive won an Emmy Award and she once played the part of Shania Twain in a music video). Even though she's always wanted to be a Charlie's Angel, her true passion is writing, and her first...

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