While many people dream of abandoning civilization and heading into the wilderness, few manage to actually do it. One exception was twenty-four-year-old Elliott Merrick, who in 1929 left his advertising job in New Jersey and moved to Labrador, one of Canada’s most remote regions. First published by Scribner’s in 1933, True North tells the captivating story of one of the high points of Merrick’s years there: a hunting trip he and his wife, Kay, made with trapper John Michelin in 1930. Covering 300 miles over a harsh winter, they experienced an unexplored realm of nature at its most intense and faced numerous challenges. Merrick accidentally shot himself in the thigh and almost cut off his toe. Freezing cold and hunger were constant. Nonetheless, the group found beauty and even magic in the stark landscape. The couple and the trappers bonded with each other and their environment through such surprisingly daunting tasks as fabricating sunglasses to avoid snow blindness and learning to wash underwear without it freezing. Merrick’s intimate style, rich with narrative detail, brings readers into a dramatic story of survival and shares the lesson the Merricks learned: that the greatest satisfaction in life can come from the simplest things.
In those books of Arctic exploration that Stefansson describes as mere catalogs of hardships, there are seldom any accounts of the inconvenience of a nose, particularly a runny nose. Perhaps a nose is hardly suited to tales of Arctic feats. One wonders how Inuit manage their noses so well, how it is in the long years of evolution that they have not contrived to grow fur on them or lose them entirely. The greatest hardship of the trip to me is a raw, red nose that drips like some damp rock in a cave, simply from the cold, not from a cold. No one ever has a cold on trips like this. Colds grow only in places where every known means of science is organized to prevent them.
Excerpted from True North by Elliott Merrick. Copyright © 2010 by Elliott Merrick. Excerpted by permission of North Atlantic Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
“A tale of real hardship, of a running fight against the forces of nature, of the joys of wild life; rich in anecdote, humorous, dramatic, vigorous, and direct.”
“A fascinating, at times magical, chronicle.”
“Merrick's writing is full of detail on how to survive in the grueling cold of a Canadian winter. The book is more ‘Walden’ than wild, as the author is often contemplative, reveling in the joy of being out of the city and plunged into nature.”
“True North is a wonderful memoir, recounting the author's travels in the wild and wonderful Canadian wilderness. I was riveted throughout the book. Whether the author was, quite seriously, discussing methods of underwear washing (hilarious) or describing the instances when everyone wanted to break camp but wouldn't admit to it, you are kept thoroughly entertained.… I thoroughly enjoyed this book, filled with beautiful narrative.”
—The Book Buff
“[True North] is the kind of book one will pick up like a Bible or a book of poetry, to re-envision the moment. Merrick expands the small details of the journey into a metaphor for living life. Like Thoreau, he urges us to live a simpler life, a life of appreciation… When 'the world is too much with [you],' as Wordsworth said, True North will take you to a place of great beauty and simplicity.”
—Read, Write, Laugh, Rewrite with Eileen Granfors
“This book should be considered a classic in nonfiction, especially among Thoreau and Emerson inspired nonfiction.”
—Wilson Knut's Witticisms