"Here is a thoughtful and heartrending essay on the consequences—physical and emotional—of life in the frigid north, where the silence of many human relations matches the silence of the landscape. And there is a secret embedded in this book, a scalding revelation that leaves the reader shaken."
—Christopher Merrill, author of Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars
"Skates between the lore of the frozen North and the lure of a family secret he's driven to explore and expose."
"An extraordinary family secret . . . serves as a suspenseful backdrop to the quiet life of this boy and extends well into adulthood when he finally uncovers the secret. Recommended for public libraries."
"Larry O'Conner's Tip of the Iceberg is an intriguing read. Part childhood memoir, part exploration of the complex relationships between fathers and sons, and part analysis of the deeply sublimated Canadian cult of nordicity, this slender volume is both ambitious and disturbing. . . . The tightness of his prose, his skill at exposition, and his intuitive understanding of how to juxtapose landscapes and human beings bodes well for his future work."
—North Dakota Quarterly
"This memoir is in the tradition of the best father-son narratives, from Edmund Gosse to Geoffrey Wolff."
"O'Connor's youth is cryogenically preserved in the rough and marvelous manner of Sir John Franklin's long-refrigerated crew."
—Books in Canada
O'Connor is the kind of child the Eskimos might have left to the elements: undersized, frail, an outsider. Yet he is willful, driven to lift the pall that emanates from his father to blanket the entire family. Underlying the physical coldness of place is an emotional chill. O'Connor's father is a stern, secretive man, barely knowable to his son, misunderstood by those around him. While father and son are poles apart in their temperament, O'Connor senses the traces of a hidden, softer man in his father, a man who retreats to a lockbox of memorabilia in the middle of the night. O'Connor pushes on in his quest.
O'Connor's spare and elegant prose conveys the heartbreaking weight of the unspoken and unseen: relatives who never call or visit, photographs locked in a cedar chest, forgotten obituaries in back issues of the local newspaper. In eerie counterpoint, O'Connor mixes fact and fable about narwhals, the midnight sun, and the elusive Northwest Passage with details of the two lives—the maturing son and distant father. At the same time O'Connor ponders the spirit-killing ethos of his working-class town: Do your duty and mind your business, no showing off and no complaining.
The effect is cumulative, subtle, and inexorable. Tip of the Iceberg is a remarkable story, perfectly modulated by O'Connor's exquisite style and infused with the kind of deep humanity that comes from understanding and forgiveness.
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