Cover image for True north
True north
Kafka, Kimberly.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton, [2000]

Physical Description:
273 pages ; 22 cm
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True North is a literary adventure novel--lean and elegantly lyrical--that showcases Kimberly Kafka's intimate knowledge of life in Alaska. Bailey Lockhart flees a tragedy in Maine to become a bush pilot in Alaska, where she buys the only piece of land not owned by the Native American Ingalik tribe among thousands of acres in the area. The tribe's center and the home of Bailey's closest neighbors is a village eighty miles downriver, governed by fellow bush pilot and Dartmouth-educated Ingalik activist Kash. Kash and Bailey are inexorably drawn to each other, but are kept apart by habits of solitude and a political hornets' nest of racial division. Racial mistrust builds when a young white couple arrive for a "wilderness adventure." The couple's deceit and hubris will cost a life, force Kash to face the conflicts in the tribe and in his heart, and destroy Bailey's carefully constructed refuge in a head-on crash with the past she had fought to escape.

Author Notes

Kimberly Kafka, a direct descendant of Franz Kafka, is a certified wilderness emergency medical technician who has taught writing & literature at the University of Michigan, & has conducted writing workshops at Bennington College & the University of Southern Maine. "True North" is her first novel & she is currently at work on a second novel. Kafka lives in Alaska & Wisconsin.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

There's plenty of adventure and suspense in Kafka's first novel. Following a tragedy that leaves her feeling alone in the world, Bailey Lockhart flees Maine, seeking the most remote place she can find. She buys a small parcel of land in Alaska, surrounded by Native American Ingalik property. Both bush pilot and nurse, Bailey finds herself interacting in unexpected ways with various members of the tribe, including Kash, the near-50, Dartmouth-educated tribal leader. Bailey's camp is some 80 miles from the Ingalik village, five miles downriver from a lodge Kash has agreed to rent for two weeks to a young white couple, whose deceit and naivete about wilderness survival contribute to life-and-death situations for themselves and others. Kafka's character portrayals, both Ingalik and white, are not based in romanticism. The story is fueled by human faults and failings: greed, pride, denial. Amidst racial hatred and tribal divisions, deep in the unrelentingly demanding wilderness, Kash and Bailey find that facing themselves may be the greatest challenge. Kafka, a wilderness emergency medical technician, is a descendant of Franz Kafka. --Grace Fill

Publisher's Weekly Review

Serious issues such as Native land rights and self-government, racism and environmentalism are among the topics Kafka tackles in her atmospheric, tightly wrought debut novel. Bailey Lockhart is a bush pilot in Alaska--"Places other people could not reach. She wanted that"--where she has lived on her own since she fled Maine five years earlier in the wake of tragedy. She is the only non-Native in the area, which is run by the Native American Ingalik tribe. The closest village to Bailey's camp is 80 miles down river. It is governed by Kash, "the Yukon's most eligible bachelor since his wife's death," who is also a Dartmouth-educated Ingalik activist and attracted to Bailey. Although she tries to disguise it, she too is drawn to Kash, but a secret in her past keeps her from letting anyone get too close. When Zach, a furniture builder, and Alpha, an elementary school teacher, come to Alaska from urban Maine on the pretext of a wilderness adventure (they are really searching for gold), they hire Bailey to pilot them into a remote area. The outsiders act as the catalyst for violence and emotional disclosure. The villagers' dislike of non-Natives who seem to threaten the indigenous way of life comes to a boil whena lecherous and violent drunk named Match expresses his aggressive resentment in increasingly dangerous ways. The suspense culminates in an action-packed extended scene featuring the hallmarks of prime time TV--a death by bear mauling, a surprise discovery and one romantic consummation. Kafka, an emergency wilderness medical technician, sometimes overwrites the drama, but she excels in integrating wilderness lore, descriptions of the natural landscape and insight into the harsh lives of people who brave the territory. (Mar.) FYI: The author is a direct descendant of Franz Kafka. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This is an accomplished first novel that is part adventure story about surviving in the breathtaking but unforgiving Alaskan wilds, part love story, and part political novel about the exploitation of Native American Ingaliks and their land. Set on a reservation in Alaska, Kafka's protagonist, Bailey Lockhart, is a young woman from Maine who has recently lost her beloved sister, a severely handicapped young woman who died in a house-fire while under her care. Bailey has come to Alaska to lose herself, to commune with nature--and to forget. Strong, self-reliant, and sharp-tongued, Bailey wants only to be left alone. Events conspire against her, however, and she finds herself drawn into the middle of an ugly conflict involving a young Anglo couple from the east and gold found on Native soil. With great skill, Kafka dramatizes Bailey's heroic involvement in this conflict and the gradual healing of her troubled heart. Recommended for all libraries.--Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., Canterbury, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.