Latitudes of Melt

Written by Joan Clark
Review by Teresa Basinski Eckford

In mid-April, 1912, two Newfoundland fishermen find a year-old baby in a basket on an ice pan, two days from shore. Francis St. Croix takes her home to his family and when no one claims her, she remains with them and settles into life in the Drook.

Aurora is different from the other children, so different that Francis and Merla fear for her future. But tragedy forces her to grow up and take on responsibilities. Her marriage to Tom, a fellow dreamer, is a happy one until the arrival of their daughter. Nancy demands most of her attention, but grows jealous after her brother is born. When life proves too difficult Aurora turns to her now abandoned childhood home for comfort and peace. As Nancy grows, she too faces challenges and finds her relationship with her mother difficult, while her brother Stan longs to understand all he can about ice and the ocean.

More than just a family saga, Latitudes of Melt is a chronicle of the 20th century. Aurora and her family learn the ties that bind are stronger than they’d ever imagined, that family is more than just to whom you were born after the mystery of Aurora’s appearance off Newfoundland is solved by her granddaughter in Ireland.

This quiet book, with its gently rolling plot, lingering and evocative images and lively cast of characters takes the reader on an unforgettable trip through time. The past is tangible and real, not merely a backdrop for the narrative. Newfoundland’s harsh beauty and spirited inhabitants come vividly to life through Ms. Clark’s finely tuned prose. She is able to draw a picture in the mind with remarkably few words. Readers looking for an intelligent, beautifully rendered tale will want to add this book to their To Be Read pile.